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North Dakota higher ed board to continue to work on presidential salary study

Board members on Thursday quickly went into executive session to discuss the procurement of a vendor to conduct the salary study.

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GRAND FORKS — Members of the State Board of Higher Education on Thursday, Jan. 27, approved a broad swath of requests for the state’s colleges and universities, but sent back to committee a proposal to award a contract to a vendor to set up an executive salary study for the presidents of those institutions, as well as executive staff for the North Dakota University System.

Board members are taking a look at presidential salaries, and how they may need to be adjusted in order to develop the process of marketing for a position, when one comes open. It was part of a broader discussion of salaries on Thursday.

The board quickly went into executive session to discuss the procurement of a vendor to conduct the salary study. When back in regular session, member Jeffry Volk made a motion to accept the lowest bidder for the study. The motion died when no other member seconded it. Member Nick Hacker then moved, and the board agreed, to send the proposal back to committee where the request for proposal for a vendor will be modified. That committee will also make a determination on a vendor, so as not to have to bring the issue before the full board again.

“Motion carries,” said Casey Ryan, chair of the higher education board. “There will not be an award for this process discussed, and it will go back to the budget and finance committee under the auspices of Budget and Finance Chair Member (Tim) Mahalik.”

Chancellor Mark Hagerott said the board has been focused on the issue of salaries for some time now, and that it has become crucial to address recruitment and retention of employees in the state university system, and not just those at the administrative level.

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“There's a whole bunch of work that’s already been done, but it is getting increasingly urgent such that this exercise will inform your budget priorities,” Hagerott said. “I think one will almost certainly have to be a substantial increase in the base salaries for everybody.”

Before the broader conversation of salaries, Joshua Wynne, UND vice president for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine & Health Sciences, said the purported rapid rise then decrease of cases of the coronavirus that have happened elsewhere has not happened across the university system. Cases across the NDUS system have plateaued or slightly increased, he said.

Wynne said the Omicron variant appears to be less virulent than previous variants of the illness. He noted that though it spreads more rapidly, the virus is encountering more people who are vaccinated and have received booster shots. Also, the spread of the illness itself is contributing to the rise of people who have developed natural immunity after having contracted it. Still, Wynne said it is necessary to wear high quality masks to keep the spread under control.

Wynne also said universities and colleges in the system are aware of the emotional toll the pandemic has had on students, and staff are trying to be proactive in dealing with that issue.

“Attending to the students’ emotional (needs) is something that I just want to assure you that we're all aware of, and try to deal with as best we can,” Wynne said.

In other business, board members approved several requests and heard about other issues including:

  • Slightly raising the tuition for UND’s master's degree in athletic training, to reflect the program moving from the undergraduate level to the graduate level due to a national mandate.
  • Approving plans to build a polytechnic education facility at Bismarck State College for an estimated $38 million.
  • Approving a revised budget at North Dakota State University for building a new agricultural complex. Plans call for raising the budget to $85 million from $50 million through a mix of regular funding, donations and state-issued bonds.
  • Approving funding for other construction projects at various colleges, including $7 million for a new athletic facility at Dickinson State University.
  • Hearing from Jerry Migler, campus dean and CEO of Dakota College at Bottineau. Migler announced he would resign at the end of his contract to pursue other opportunities.
Adam Kurtz is the community editor for the Grand Forks Herald. He covers higher education and other topics in Grand Forks County and the city.

Kurtz joined the Herald in July 2019. He covered business and county government topics before covering higher education and some military topics.

Tips and story ideas are welcome. Get in touch with him at akurtz@gfherald.com, or DM at @ByAdamKurtz.

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