North Dakota State President Dean Bresciani says potential budget cuts could mean big gains for out-of-state institutions, while hurting North Dakota.
Bresciani testified in front of the North Dakota Senate Appropriations committee on Wednesday, Jan. 20, emphasizing that cuts proposed in the executive budget would hurt the Fargo-based school.
Gov. Doug Burgum’s requested 7.5% reduction in the university system’s funding formula would result in about a $5 million budget loss for NDSU, Bresciani said. Another round of cuts would be “devastating” for the campus and would impact students’ educational experience.
“We’ve cut and we’ve cut and we’ve cut,” Bresciani said. “Doing a cut like this, it would be the best thing that ever happened to our competing institutions out of the state of North Dakota, but it would be devastating consequences (for NDSU and North Dakota.)”
Bresciani’s comments echo what higher education leaders across the state have been saying all week: significant budget cuts to the North Dakota University System would result in job losses and potential cutting of programs. Tammy Dolan, chief financial officer for the system, said the cuts could mean 200 jobs lost across the state; this comes after the system has lost 800 jobs in the past five years.
Legislators spent the first half of the week listening to all 11 public higher ed presidents, as well as leaders from the university system.
In his budget address in December, Burgum pointed to decreasing enrollments across the system since 2009-11.
“Total funding for higher education next biennium is proposed at $2.6 billion, including a general fund decrease of $9.3 million from the current biennium’s legislative base level,” Burgum said last month. “This reflects a trend of decreasing enrollment and a 7.5 percent reduction in the formula payment rate.”
Additionally, Burgum noted that higher education’s proportion of general fund spending is still higher in the 2021-23 biennium than it was eight years ago.
Burgum’s budget does add increased support for the Higher Education Challenge Grant program, from $9.4 million to $20 million – $10 million from the general fund and $10 million from potential June 30, 2021, Legacy Fund earnings – to support North Dakota’s public colleges and universities.
Burgum’s proposed budget did support an additional $15 million allocation to NDSU for its Agricultural Product Development Center. The university is looking to replace Harris Hall and the Meats Lab, which have been housing the university’s agricultural commercialization work. Harris Hall was built in the 1950s. There are a number of issues with the building, including electrical and water problems.
“The conditions of the building are legendarily embarrassing and unproductive,” he said.
The facility would be constructed at a new site on the west side of campus for ease of truck and vehicle access. The three-to-four-story building will be designed with high ceilings in first floor areas to accommodate large milling equipment and chain hoists for meat and crop materials.
Bresciani also asked legislators to support a 3% salary increase in each year of the biennium for faculty and staff. Burgum’s budget proposes a 2% increase each year of the biennium.
NDSU Student Body President Matthew Friedmann asked legislators to avoid having NDSU and other institutions raise tuition for students in order to cover faculty and staff salary increases.
While the affordability of NDSU was not the sole reason he attended NDSU, Friedmann said it is an important factor for college students.
“We, as students, are already under an incredible financial burden, and I want you to know that we feel every increase no matter how nominal it may seem,” he said.
He added that increased tuition costs may mean some students won’t be able to afford to finish their education or prospective students may choose not attend an institution.
“Raising tuition affects what I find to be one of the core values NDSU brings to this state, inviting in people to the state who will contribute to the economy and bring their college level skills to the labor market,” Friedmann said.