Other views: Projects promise lasting improvements for ND higher ededucation
Lawmakers did the right thing by investing in universities, North Dakota's engines of long-term development. North Dakota State Sen. Robert Erbele is a rancher and North Dakota State University graduate from Lehr. And in part, perhaps, because of...
Lawmakers did the right thing by investing in universities, North Dakota's engines of long-term development.
North Dakota State Sen. Robert Erbele is a rancher and North Dakota State University graduate from Lehr. And in part, perhaps, because of those factors, when the time came to vote to improve a key piece of North Dakota infrastructure -- in this case, the School of Medicine and Health Sciences at the University of North Dakota-- Erbele didn't hesitate.
"We should do it because we can," Erbele said in February, after he joined the Senate in voting to pay for a new building for the school.
"If we have the opportunity to do one-time spending projects that provide greater efficiencies and payback in the future, we should consider it."
On Friday, that practical wisdom prevailed as the Legislature approved not only the new building for the medical school, but also a much-needed renovation for the UND Law School and a number of other building projects at other campuses.
Congratulations to lawmakers for these decisions, which will benefit North Dakotans in every corner of the state and for many generations -- not just decades -- to come.
On the farm and on the ranch, when North Dakotans come into a sudden windfall of money, they use it to repair or replace the tools they need to keep the operation going. That's exactly what the Legislature has chosen to do. Higher education is one of those tools: It was a gateway to opportunity long before oil even was discovered in North Dakota, and it'll be a gateway to opportunity long after the last gas flare has been extinguished and the prairie nights once again glitter with 6,000 stars.
The new home for the UND School of Medicine promises to be a standout project for Grand Forks as well as the state. American medical schools rank among the most respected educational institutions in the world. Admission to any one of them is a sought-after credential; in 2012, 45,000 top college students competed for only 19,500 medical-school seats nationwide.
So, for a community, the presence of a medical school guarantees not only a steady influx of superb students and skilled clinicians, but also high-quality care at local clinics and hospitals, all of which are improved by the school's presence.
In this way, Grand Forks has benefited from the medical school for many decades. Now, that effect will be even more positive, as the expanded and newly state-of-the-art facilities not only graduate more students but also host much more high-level research.
That's a formula for dynamism, continuous improvement -- and as time goes on, better health care for North Dakotans, who'll be cared for by UND School of Medicine graduates throughout the state.
The law school's renovation is less dramatic but every bit as needed. As mentioned before in this space, the school has only four classrooms in which to train 250 students. In 2007, the American Bar Association's accreditation report called the building "cramped," "substandard" and "less than adequate"; the renovation will ease all of those concerns, giving North Dakota a fine building through which will pass most of the state's 21st-century practitioners of law.
Last but not least, congratulations to the champions of these projects in the Legislature, the Grand Forks delegation in particular.
It's one thing to make these arguments on paper. It's another thing to make the case on the House or Senate floor or in committee, to buttonhole other lawmakers and ask for their votes, to not get discouraged when seemingly crucial votes go the wrong way and to keep strategizing and horse-trading right up through the final hours, as lawmakers did last week.
A century ago, Texas vowed to devote a share of its oil wealth to higher education. The University of Texas and the state's other schools have been on the rise ever since; and as Texans would agree, Texas as a result is a much better place.
This session, North Dakota in effect did the same thing. Count on North Dakotans in 2050 and beyond to look back on the 63rd Legislative Assembly's farsighted actions and to say, "Thanks."
The Grand Forks Herald's Editorial Board
formed this opinion.