NDSU’s aircraft is essentialIt never fails. Whenever the critics of North Dakota higher education have a chance to take a shot — legitimate or not — they fire away.
By: The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, The Jamestown Sun
It never fails. Whenever the critics of North Dakota higher education have a chance to take a shot — legitimate or not — they fire away. So it was last week when The Forum reported on the cost and value of North Dakota State University’s airplane, a Beechcraft King Air B-200. To hear some of them tell it, university personnel are jetting around the nation on the taxpayers’ dime. Not hardly.
The university uses the plane almost exclusively for in-state trips when several people have to be at a destination, such as testifying at the Legislature. The aircraft’s cabin is configured to seat eight. It’s not used for personal trips by NDSU’s president and staff. When Dean Bresciani has to travel out of state, he flies commercial.
The yearly cost of operating the airplane is about $550,000 during a legislative year when university officials testify and lobby frequently at the Bismarck session. Using the plane instead of driving is smart use of resources. When balanced against the costs of ground travel and overnight stays and meals, the airplane’s efficiencies measure up well. The valuable time of the president and his staff must be factored into the travel equation.
Furthermore, critics who apparently believe (we say “believe” because “think” would be inaccurate) the plane is an extravagance are of the same crowd who say universities should be run like businesses. Ironically, they are right about business.
Major companies in Fargo and elsewhere operate airplanes. They don’t do so because they like to waste money. The planes are tools of business. Flying is efficient — a cost-saver in the long run.
Make no mistake about it: NDSU is one of the biggest “businesses” in the region. Its annual budget rivals or exceeds most big corporations rooted in the state. The university uses its Beechcraft in much the same way corporate executives use theirs, except private execs have the luxury of using their planes for personal trips.
Both North Dakota research universities own or lease airplanes. While NDSU has the Beechcraft, the University of North Dakota has access to several aircraft through the university’s aerospace studies program.
It seems a few noisy and chronic faultfinders really don’t understand that NDSU and UND have evolved from good regional campuses to world-class research/teaching universities. The myopic scolds seem stuck in the era when NDSU was the “AC” and did a darn good job teaching agriculture, pharmacy and engineering. NDSU still does an excellent job in those marquee programs, and much more. It is the “much more” that has redefined the school and put it in a league with the best research universities in the nation.
An easily accessible university airplane is an essential and efficient means to help keep NDSU flying high.