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Leaders at Lake Region, Mayville State say budget cuts could hurt programs

Presidents from North Dakota State College of Science, Mayville State, Williston State, Lake Region State and Valley State spoke to the Senate Appropriations committee on Tuesday, Jan. 19. It’s the second day of higher education-centric hearings for the committee, which also will hear from North Dakota State University and other higher ed-related organizations on Wednesday.

012021.N.GFH.Doug Darling
Lake Region State President Doug Darling testifies in front of the Senate Appropriations committee on Tuesday, Jan. 19. (Sydney Mook / Grand Forks Herald)
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For a second day, presidents from North Dakota colleges and universities testified about the impact budget cuts would have on their respective campuses, most citing potential loss of programs and jobs.

Presidents from North Dakota State College of Science, Mayville State, Williston State, Lake Region State and Valley State spoke to the Senate Appropriations committee on Tuesday, Jan. 19. It’s the second day of higher education-centric hearings for the committee, which also will hear from North Dakota State University and other higher ed-related organizations on Wednesday.

Gov. Doug Burgum has called for a 7.5% reduction in the system’s funding formula , which is based on the number of completed credit hours by institution. That cut would reduce the system’s general fund budget from $648.7 million to $629.3 million.

Lake Region State President Doug Darling also emphasized that Burgum’s budget cuts could mean loss of jobs and programs at the Devils Lake-based school. Darling said the college already has reduced its budget over the past few years.

“Everybody who wore two hats on our campus now wears three,” he said. “Everybody who had three has about three-and-a-half or four jobs. So we're working hard to be efficient. But if we have to take that size of cut, which works out to be just over $1 million for the biennium, we're talking people and programs.”

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Darling said the college has cut back its travel, equipment and many other aspects of campus to keep costs down.

“Anytime we start cutting programs, you start a downward spiral,” he said. “We’ve got one fewer program, which can be fewer students, which means fewer tuition dollars, which means we have to cut to make up for that, too.”

Steve Benson, vice president of finance at Mayville, said the proposed reduction would be around $1.3 million for the campus, or equivalent to nine full-time employees. It would impact the university’s ability to deliver student programs and services, including health services.

“I'm the mayor of the city of Mayville, and I must say that Mayville State University and the students are very important, the vitality of our community,” he said.

Monday, legislators heard from the North Dakota University System , UND and its medical school, Minot State, Dickinson State and Minot State. Leaders from UND noted that budget cuts could mean the loss of more than 70 employees and NDUS chief financial officer Tammy Dolan said the system does not have a lot of room to cut after previous reductions meant the loss of hundreds of jobs systemwide.

“We’re down to the meat and bones of the budget,” she said.

There’s a long road to go before a budget is finalized. The higher education budget is typically among the final budgets approved by the Legislature in April.

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Mayville State President Brian Van Horn
Mayville State President Brian Van Horn testifies in front of the Senate Appropriations committee on Tuesday, Jan. 19. (Sydney Mook / Grand Forks Herald)

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 smook@gfherald.com or call her at 701-780-1134.
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