Morton: Supporting a needs-based budget

Morton: Supporting a needs-based budget

Recently I had the opportunity to speak with our legislators during a committee hearing on our budget. As you may know, the State Board of Higher Education voted unanimously to support a needs-based budget to fund higher education in North Dakota. There are many reasons why, but mostly we wanted to be able to offer support to our system of faculty, staff and students. Here were some of those reasons.

We have been adapting and improving the course of higher education through partnerships with our campuses, industry leaders, students, and government leaders as the Board worked hard to Envision the path to 2030. We are embracing disruptive technology at several of our campuses, such as cybersecurity at NDSU, MISU and BSC, and unmanned aviation systems at UND.

For our students – transferability is number one in the nation; as a system, we place our priority on students, and we continue to focus on their career needs and personal pathways. (CoOp), We want to see them through to their ultimate success as good citizens.

The SBHE has approved BSC to move toward a polytechnic model to meet the changing needs of students and the workforce adaptation necessary for changing careers. DSU is now prototyping a dual mission model, so that they can provide some technical degrees that are essential in the west.

While it is true that nationally the numbers of prospective high school graduates are going down, North Dakota’s numbers are projected to increase, according to a 2017 Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) study. Most western states are projected to decrease or stay the same, but ND is expected to see an increase by 24% by 2024.

Our priorities (what we are doing well):

The NDUS is currently reviewing 175 military courses that could potentially be utilized in transfer to fulfill general education requirements. Normally military courses and/or training would likely have been considered elective credit or not accepted at all prior to this undertaking.

The State Board is requesting a 4% pay raise for faculty and staff – because there has been a lack of pay incentives in the previous biennium simultaneously with significant staffing reductions. We are in a national battle for talent. We would support a pay increase and a continuation of current health and retirement benefits to recruit and retain top quality faculty and staff.

We are also focusing on shared services to create greater efficiencies by consolidating payroll to fewer campuses. Core Technology Service is our ultimate shared service, allowing us to take advantage of economies of scale, and consolidate our technology services and learning management system among all 11 campuses.

Research is a major focus of the Board, and Innovation is a priority.

Research Excellence and Innovation was recently added as a major pillar in the State Board’s strategy. With Legislative support, an emerging technologies working group provided focus for state and industry efforts and investments to help North Dakota adapt to the accelerated pace of new technology developments. NDUS will encourage more campus collaborative programs and EPSCOR funding/under-graduate research with Tribal Colleges.

The SBHE is committed to adapting at speed and scale to changing fiscal realities, student needs, and business workforce markets across our large state.

[This column was originally provided as testimony for HB 1003.]