Budget outlook for North Dakota University System remains unclear amid pandemic

North Dakota University System Chancellor Mark Hagerott poses for a photo. (Sydney Mook / Grand Forks Herald)

Higher education leaders across the North Dakota University System note that more unknowns remain as the coronavirus pandemic, and its fallouts, continue to impact colleges and universities across the country.

Tim Mihalick, chair of the State Board of Higher Education’s budget and finance subcommittee, said there are many challenges for higher education now and what will happen in the next several months is fairly unknown at this point.

“I don't know that I’ve shrugged my shoulders, saying ‘I don't know,’ as much as I have in the last 45 days or 30 days as we continue to go through this,” he said during a committee meeting Tuesday, April 21. “We’re all kind of scratching our heads.”

Tammy Dolan, the university system's chief financial officer, said, while the unknowns remain, she’s been speaking with campuses throughout the system, which are monitoring the situation carefully.

“It’s an extremely uncomfortable position for everybody to be in, but I want to reassure you that … all of our campuses are reacting very appropriately to their situations right now,” Dolan said. “What that new normal will look like (next year) I don't know, but rest assured that the campuses are working very hard to maintain their financial status as much as they possibly can.”


It's also unknown what the state budget could look like next year when the next biennium starts, Dolan said.

Chancellor Mark Hagerott said it's possible large, urban campuses may end up having the most difficult problems as universities attempt to tackle these issues because those campuses also have to deal with high population densities.

“This is where our rural nature and low (population) density really could help us deal with this much better than urban campuses, downtown with thousands of students,” Hagerott said.

At least two schools, UND and North Dakota State University, have announced staffing changes.

UND announced last week that a majority of non-faculty staff will see a substantial reduction in hours in the coming weeks, according to interim President Joshua Wynne. In most cases, Wynne said staff members may see their hours reduced to zero, but they will remain employed by the university and will be able to keep their health insurance and other benefits. Affected staff will be eligible to collect unemployment benefits, as well as additional dollars through the federal CARES Act.

NDSU announced Friday it could be facing additional budget cuts but officials there don’t yet know what the cuts will include.

Some schools have announced hiring freezes as each campus analyzes what roles are critical needs.

The U.S. Department of Education also announced the second wave of funds for colleges and universities in North Dakota through the CARES Act. Statewide, including schools outside of the North Dakota University System, more than $11 million was awarded to 18 colleges and universities.


This second wave in funding comes as part of an additional $6.2 billion nationwide federal funding allocation through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund authorized by the CARES Act to help higher education institutions respond to the impacts of COVID-19. The additional funds can be used to expand remote learning programs, build IT capacity and train faculty and staff to operate in a remote learning environment so that at any moment institutions can pivot quickly, according to a press release from Sen. Kevin Cramer’s office.


  • North Dakota State University - $3,864,163

  • University of North Dakota - $2,745,776

  • University of Mary - $768,094

  • Minot State University - $637,891

  • Turtle Mountain Community College - $473,968

  • Bismarck State College - $457,033

  • University of Jamestown - $424,479

  • North Dakota State College of Science - $411,676

  • Dickinson State University - $320,047

  • Valley City State University - $226,471

  • Sitting Bull College - $187,524

  • United Tribes Technical College - $169,976

  • Williston State College - $169,405

  • Mayville State University - $156,360

  • Dakota College At Bottineau - $117,215

  • Cankdeska Cikana Community College - $108,484

  • Trinity Bible College And Graduate School - $102,196

  • Lake Region State College - $55,439

Sydney Mook has been the managing editor at the Herald since April 2021. In her role she edits and assigns stories and helps reporters develop their work for readers.

Mook has been with the Herald since May 2018 and was first hired as the Herald's higher education reporter where she covered UND and other happenings in state higher education. She was later promoted to community editor in 2019.

For story pitches contact her at or call her at 701-780-1134.
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