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Governor proposes $90M increase to higher ed budget

Portrait of Governor Doug Burgum1 / 2
Mark Kennedy2 / 2

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum has proposed around $90 million in increased funding for higher education in the next biennium, but his budget included no money for a $100 million investment in research proposed by the state’s two research universities.

Burgum proposed that the increased funding for higher education would support increased staff compensation, targeted capital projects and applied research.

UND President Mark Kennedy had an overall positive view on Burgum’s budget, but noted that nothing is final yet.

“There is still a lot to learn,” Kennedy said.

The North Dakota University System has seen decreased funding over the past few years and was facing another potential 10 percent earlier this year.

Kennedy noted that it is still “unclear” what the base level of funding will be for the upcoming biennium and added that there is still a potential for a cut once the budget gets to the Legislature.

UND will continue working with the State Board of Higher Education and the Legislature as the legislative process moves forward, he said.

“I know our discussions with the Legislature have given us hope that when the dust settles we’ll be closer to the proposal put forth by the state board,” he said.

Research proposal

Kennedy and NDSU President Dean Bresciani traveled across North Dakota this fall presenting their plans for increased research in the state of North Dakota. The two had proposed asking the Legislature for $100 million in funding over the next biennium, which would have equated to $25 million a year for each institution.

However, there were no direct funds provided for it in the budget.

Instead, Burgum said there is more than $200 million in research money available in the budget. It includes research for lignite coal, agriculture, oil and gas and other areas by institutions in the state. The proposal also included a $20 million proposal for Research ND. The grants from Research ND would be matched one-to-one with private and state funds.

“It’s a different proposal but it sort of incorporates research that’s going on plus some new, plus some matching stuff,” Burgum said during a Herald editorial board meeting, noting that there is still some flexibility in the ultimate research investment based on decisions made by the Legislature.

“We believe that research is a key way to try and diversify the economy, and we want to support it,” Burgum added.

Kennedy said having money available for research is “a positive step forward.” The proposal would include a one-to-one private, state match, Kennedy said.

“We will continue to advocate for the proposal that we have been around the state discussing and have been receiving increasingly wonderful responses to,” he said.

However, Burgum told the Herald that the presidents’ proposal is not necessarily dead, noting that the presidents can still present their plan to the Legislature.

“I think as long as you have (Sen.) Ray Holmberg (R-Grand Forks) the head of appropriations nothing’s ever dead,” he said.

Sydney Mook

Sydney Mook has been covering higher education at the Grand Forks Herald since May 2018. She previously served as the multimedia editor and cops, courts and health reporter at the Dickinson Press from January 2016 to May 2018.  She graduated from the University of South Dakota with a bachelor's degree in journalism and political science in three and half years in December 2015. While at the USD, she worked for the campus newspaper, The Volante, as well as the television news show, Coyote News. She also interned at South Dakota Public Broadcasting and spent the summer before her senior year interning in Fort Knox for the ROTC Cadet Summer Training program. In her spare time, Sydney enjoys cheering on the New York Yankees and the Kentucky Wildcats, as well as playing golf. If you've got an idea for a video be sure to give her a call!

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