Higher ed funding focus of meeting
BISMARCK -- North Dakota legislators are trying to figure out how to get what they pay for when it comes to higher education. Lawmakers, university officials and business leaders discussed different ways to fund higher education and ways to measu...
BISMARCK -- North Dakota legislators are trying to figure out how to get what they pay for when it comes to higher education.
Lawmakers, university officials and business leaders discussed different ways to fund higher education and ways to measure its success during a meeting Monday of the Higher Education Roundtable.
A focus of the debate was on performance-based funding.
Panelist David Longanecker, president of the Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education, said funding schools based on their performance gives more transparency to legislators and provides clear signals of state goals.
North Dakota has one of the most efficient higher education systems, but not all legislators realize that, Longanecker said.
"There's a lot of tension in the state, and it's one of the highest performing states," Longanecker said. "I think it's because the legislators aren't convinced it's as high-performing as it is."
Rep. Bob Skarphol, chairman of the Legislature's Higher Education Committee, said he's not in favor of continuing to give funding increases to the university system without making changes in how the dollars are utilized.
"We can't do the same old thing the same old way and expect different results," said Skarphol, R-Tioga.
Some potential goals that could be linked to higher education funding are increasing the education rate of residents, improving graduation rates and increasing the number of degrees awarded in science, technology, engineering and math.
Skarphol said he'd like to establish a commission to thoroughly study the issue over the next interim, similar to the commission that recently worked on K-12 education.
North Dakota State University President Dean Bresciani said he commends Skarphol for spurring the discussion on how North Dakota can do better.
"Most states have this conversation when they're in crisis," Bresciani said. "We're having it when we're in an opportunity to invest."
Longanecker said North Dakota's research universities are underperforming when compared to other research universities in terms of bachelor's degrees awarded. But North Dakota's research universities are also underfunded, Longanecker said.
"You're actually getting what you pay for here," Longanecker said. "You're actually getting about what you should expect for what you're investing in that sector compared to others."
North Dakota's two-year colleges are performing above the national average and the four-year colleges are in the middle of the pack in terms of credentials and degrees awarded, Longanecker said.
The committee continues meeting today with more discussion with roundtable members and potential bill drafts regarding higher education.
Amy Dalrymple is a reporter at The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.