Letter to the editor: Colleges don’t deserve share of students’ new businessesAristotle said, “All who have meditated on the art of governing mankind have been convinced that the fate of empires depends on the education of youth.” North Dakota is in the midst of an economic boom and through effective educational policy, we can promote a diversified economy with a well-educated work force equipped to keep North Dakota moving forward.
By: John Mitzel, The Jamestown Sun
Aristotle said, “All who have meditated on the art of governing mankind have been convinced that the fate of empires depends on the education of youth.” North Dakota is in the midst of an economic boom and through effective educational policy, we can promote a diversified economy with a well-educated work force equipped to keep North Dakota moving forward. There are two issues related to this that I would like to address.
The first is the need to protect students’ intellectual property. In the classroom, young entrepreneurs learn how to develop, launch and make a profit off of innovative ideas. For too long, universities, including the University of North Dakota, have taken claim on ideas and products developed by students in the classroom, demanding that they receive a share of the profits and royalties on each unit of the students’ products sold because of the work done on campus. Some entrepreneurship students now refuse to bring their best ideas into the classroom for fear that the university will take claim; this is seriously detrimental to a student’s educational experience. What if Harvard had tried claiming Facebook because a student started the venture on campus?
A university should have no claim on a student’s ideas or intellectual property as students have already paid tuition and fees to access courses, faculty and support. The Legislature must be proactive to protect students.
The second issue is supporting students through public-private partnerships in education. In 2005, then-Gov. John Hoeven signed a bill creating the North Dakota Centers of Excellence, which bring colleges and businesses together to form a mutually beneficial relationship. Through the centers, businesses invest in and utilize the immense research capacity of our universities and take the their research’s results, which would have otherwise stayed in academia, and transform it into commercially viable products and businesses. Students gain new research opportunities, exposure to real-world scenarios and job opportunities. Through June 2010, the economic impact of these centers was estimated at $406.5 million, 15 times the amount of state funds used on the program. The focus of educational policy must be the student; when businesses and our economy can benefit by providing students with tremendous educational opportunities, you know you have a winning policy.
Investments in education will ensure that North Dakota’s economy is able to adapt to a rapidly changing marketplace and can continue to develop. The Legislature owes it to North Dakotans to do what it can to keep us on top — now is not the time to throw on the brakes on the economy. We need to keep North Dakota moving forward.
(Mitzel is a student in banking and financial economics at UND)