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Higher ed committee approves UND’s $86.5M fundraising request for College of Engineering renovations

Tande: improvements needed to modernize labs, classrooms

Harrington Hall.jpeg
Harrington Hall is pictured on Thursday, Sept. 22
Joe Banish/Grand Forks Herald
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GRAND FORKS — The State Board of Higher Education’s budget and finance committee passed a resolution approving UND’s request to begin fundraising $86.5 million in order to complete renovations to its College of Engineering and Mines.

The $86.5 million would fund approximately half of the total renovation costs, which are sorely needed, according to the college’s Dean Brian Tande.

“Some of our academic buildings, like Harrington, were built in the ‘50s and ‘60s,” said Tande. “We don’t have the facilities necessary to cope with the recent growth in students, or our modern research needs.”

The growth in student population Tande is referring to is significant. Since 2010, the college has grown from 1,300 students to more than 2,100 at the start of this academic year, an increase of 62%. The college’s research output has also increased 40% in the past several years, according to a North Dakota University System document concerning the project.

“These renovations will not only add classroom and laboratory space, but also modernize our research experience,” said Tande. "It will accommodate our research growth in sectors such as chemical engineering, AI and minerals."

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Tande said that the proposed improvements are part of a master planning project, which has been in development for 18 months. The College of Engineering and Mines is coordinating internally to determine each of its departments' needs from the project.

Of the $86.5 million approved for the first phase of renovations, UND is requesting $14.5 million in capital funds, $11.6 million of which would be state funded, and $2.9 million funded locally.

The proposed improvements are on a tentative five-year schedule. Following design work and site preparation, UND officials are hoping to begin construction in 2024, and have the project completed in 2028.

The fundraising request awaits final approval at the State Board of Higher Education's Sep. 29 meeting.

UND also petitioned the committee for an increase in the authorization limit for lease revenue bonds. The increase — $25 million to $30 million — was requested to combat rising inflation.

The bonds are used to finance improvements for the electrical distribution network at UND’s Energy and Environmental Research Center, as well as construction of a new advanced materials processing center.

Additionally, the committee entered an approximately 90 minute executive session, where members discussed a report on North Dakota University System retirement plans.

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