Sections

Weather Forecast

Close

UND releases budget cut proposals

UND released on Friday draft proposals submitted by the heads of campus units to reduce budgets by 12 percent across the board.

Much of the reduction plans submitted by UND’s academic colleges highlight decreases in personnel costs brought on by the recent round of voluntary separations, along with suggested closures of vacant tenure-track faculty lines.

UND President Mark Kennedy said the final impact of voluntary separations and phased retirement programs  -- which drew a combined total of 119 staff and faculty applicants earlier this winter -- won’t be fully known for more than a month.

Kennedy said the campus response to the release of the plans was “relatively quiet” on Friday, a perception he attributed to the work of college deans in gathering information throughout the reduction process.

“This is in line with the input they’ve received and in line with the strategy plan,” he said, adding that his executive council waited to ensure all affected employees were informed prior to the public release. “We’re trying to do this in straightforward yet planned way to reduce the amount of uncertainty the campus faces, and we’re hopeful that we have done that.”

The reduction plans have been in the works through the winter and were submitted to meet deadline at the beginning of this week. The UND Executive Council returned earlier versions of the proposals to campus leaders in mid-February, instructing deans and support staff heads to more closely adhere to goals identified through the university’s strategic planning process.

The cuts on campus are expected to amount to a $32 million reduction over the upcoming two-year budget period, a sum mainly tied to a sluggish state economy and slashed appropriations to public entities. The North Dakota University System has been anticipating a 20 percent reduction from its previous biennium budget.

On Thursday, the North Dakota Legislature accepted a state revenue forecast which painted an even grimmer fiscal picture, projecting a $46 million shortfall in the ongoing 2015-17 funding biennium. Beyond that, the forecast identified $103 million less in general fund revenue than what had previously been expected in a January prediction.

It’s not yet clear how those reductions will impact the North Dakota University System.

Kennedy, who has suggested to the Legislature that schools be allowed to increase tuition rates before being handed further budget cuts, said he hasn’t yet had a chance to meet with local legislators. He added that the legislators have “been kept in close contact with us” and have been supportive throughout the budgeting process.

Back on campus, the reduction plans were written to meet the university cuts as expected before the Thursday forecast. The proposals were paired with memos submitted by the college deans outlining the nature and purpose of their suggested cuts. These notes point to the ways in which the proposed reductions will meet goals identified so far in the ongoing, campuswide strategic planning process.

Many of the memos underline the potential for collaborative or interdisciplinary approaches to delivering programs to students. On the other side of that, the plans also identify opportunities to close or alter low-enrollment courses to expand their utility.

Art and Sciences

The UND College of Arts and Sciences, the largest academic area on campus, will face the largest single cut of about $4.2 million.

Of that sum, more than $900,000 was proposed to be reached through voluntary separations and phased retirements alone. Dean Debbie Storrs wrote in her reduction memo that her office has accepted nine applicants for those programs, which was more than had been expected. Storrs wrote the proposed cuts are largely consistent with the wider strategic plan and feature decisions driven by an earlier review of the college’s graduate programs. That review, she stated, was intended to reallocate the use of graduate teaching assistants and tuition waivers to enhance offerings. The “context and severity” of the budget reductions have instead primarily guided choices about finding savings, though the redirection of funds will continue, targeting high-return areas.

“In the future, the college will direct (graduate teaching assistants) and tuition waivers to graduate programs with high research potential, successful grant productivity, and nationally and internationally recognized creative activity,” wrote Storrs.

Much of the cut is realized through the loss of personnel, ranging from faculty positions to graduate teaching assistants. As a result of the reductions, the full learning community in the first-year Integrated Studies program would be eliminated.

Business

The UND College of Business and Public Affairs will face a cut of more than $1.5 million.

The single largest reduction in that total comes from the elimination of vacant faculty lines, a move which would save more than $200,000.

Margaret Williams, dean of the college, wrote in her memo that her reduction plan meets the university’s strategic goals by retaining staff in student support areas including the school’s advising and career development centers. However, Williams wrote, the plan’s elimination of open faculty lines will hurt the college’s ability to publish research, which is another strategic goal. With fewer faculty lines, there will be fewer “research-active” faculty in the college, she writes.

Williams stated in a news release that instruction previously led by tenure-track faculty could instead be provided by lecturers and instructors.

Aerospace

The John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences will also take on a reduction of more than $1.5 million.

The largest individual cuts come from savings of more than $200,000 apiece in academic support services, at least one of which was the result of an employee buyout. An additional $200,000-plus was saved by filling a series of positions at lower salaries.

Paul Lindseth, dean of the school, wrote in his memo to the executive council that it is “extremely difficult” to align reductions with the university’s strategic priorities. Lindseth also wrote that, given the timing of the proposals in the midst of the voluntary separation process, the school is operating with unknown variables regarding the impact of the loss of faculty members.

He didn’t forward any proposals to cut open faculty lines, though his college has seven such positions. Lindseth wrote that those openings, paired with the expectation of losing longtime senior faculty members to voluntary separation, “puts the college in an extremely tough position to carry out our educational mission.”

In terms of interdisciplinary efforts, Lindseth wrote the school’s department of earth system science and policy is set to propose the Earth, Environment and Sustainability Institute in collaboration with two departments related to geology.

Education

The UND College of Education and Human Development is planning to reduce more than $1.2 million from its budget.

Dean Cindy Juntunen wrote that her school will be maintaining its Ph.D. programs and resources to keep in line with the university’s wider strategic goal of increasing its output of those degrees. However, she wrote, the college will be phasing out support for its Doctor of Education program from base funds.

The reduction plan would also see five assistant professorships go unfilled, as well as one professor being replaced with a new assistant.

Juntunen stated college leadership intends to reorganize the college to support collaborative efforts. One aspect of that would be to “solidify resources around two ‘Grand Challenge’ clusters,” a reference to the campuswide initiatives identified through the strategic planning process and intended to promote collaborative efforts.

For the college, those initiatives would lead to a focus on school-based health centers and the “educational pipeline” carrying students from pre-kindergarten on into higher education.

Engineering

The UND College of Engineering and Mines will take on a cut of $1.17 million.

The college’s proposals include eliminating one vacancy in staff and three in faculty opened by last year’s round of voluntary separations. As written into the plan, the implications of eliminating two of those positions could have the potential to “jeopardize (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology) accreditation.”

Beyond the full-time personnel, more than $390,000 would be saved through the elimination of part-time positions, teaching overload and other expenses. The plan also calls for reducing more than $170,000 in operating expenses and $150,000 in for graduate teaching assistants, graders and student workers.

A note from college Dean Hesham El-Rewini said the guiding principle of the proposals is to “minimize negative impact on our long-term success.”

To elaborate on that success, El-Rewini included a list of goals for the college spanning the next five years. Those include boosting enrollment to 2,500 students, marking an annual research expenditure of $15 million and establishing a graduation rate of 75 percent.

The college will be starting a joint Ph.D. in biomedical engineering, an area related to a Grand Challenge at the onset of the 2017-18 academic year, El-Rewini wrote.

Nursing

The UND College of Nursing and Professional Disciplines will absorb a cut of more than $1 million.

College Dean Gayle Roux wrote her school had recently reviewed its program offerings and has eliminated or begun phasing out three programs: Adult gerontology clinical nurse specialist, advanced public health nursing and social work PLUS, which stands for parents learning and understanding supports.

Roux stated the college will continue to evaluate programs as time goes on.

Law

The UND School of Law is facing almost $700,000 in budget reductions.

Kathryn Rand, dean of the law school, wrote that all of her recommended cuts have been designed to meet the requirements of the university president and provost “without endangering the law school’s ability” to keep its accreditation with the American Bar Association.

Rand wrote the school is working beyond its own goals to contribute to the university’s strategic planning objectives by expanding course offerings related to energy and oil and gas law, finding offerings “relevant to Canadian law students” and by exploring options to deliver online courses.

Earlier this year, Rand announced the school would be putting its student law clinic on hiatus for at least two years in response to budget reductions.

Academic Affairs

The UND Academic Affairs Office will reduce its budget by slightly less than $420,000. The support units for UND Provost Tom DiLorenzo had not yet completed their proposals at the time of the general release.

Andrew Haffner

Andrew Haffner covers higher education and general assignment stories for the Grand Forks Herald. He attended the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where he studied journalism, political science and international studies. He previously worked at the Dickinson Press.

(701) 780-1134
Advertisement