North Dakota Legislature passes ‘record’ funds for higher-ed system

NDUS' base budget of $792,409,065 for biennium of 2023-25 is an increase of 15.5% from previous biennium

North Dakota University System

BISMARCK — The North Dakota Board of Higher Education expressed its gratitude to the Legislature for what one of its board members called a record level of budgetary support during its monthly meeting on Thursday.

House Bill 1003 — which passed its second reading in both the House and Senate on Wednesday and awaits action from Gov. Doug Burgum — sets the North Dakota University System’s base budget at $792,409,065 for the 2023-25 biennium. According to David Krebsbach, the system's vice chancellor for administrative affairs and chief financial officer, this is a 15.5% increase from the previous biennium.

By comparison, the biennium of 2019-21 saw a base budget of $648.7 million, while the NDUS budget for 2017-19 was $609.8 million.

In addition to the base budget, the Legislature approved several one-time funding requests from system institutions, including $9 million for UND’s planned national security corridor, $20 million to fund challenge grants and $6.8 million to fund the state’s Career Builders scholarship and loan forgiveness program.

Board member Jeffry Volk said such a large base budget is a welcome sign after several biennia of budget cuts.


“I think the institutions are now going to be at a higher level than they were four bienniums ago,” Volk said. “It took a long time after the big cut to build it back up, so that was nice to see."

The board also discussed its plans to conduct post-tenure review. The discussion stemmed from the failure of House Bill 1446, which proved controversial due to its imposition of additional responsibilities on tenured professors, along with a mandatory four-year pilot program to "improve the tenure process."

The board, along with many university administrators, student organizations and professors officially opposed 1446, which failed its second reading in the Senate by a count of 21-23.

Dr. Casey Ryan, board chair, said a SBHE committee will conduct post-tenure review.

Ryan said he told House Majority Leader Mike Lefor, R-Dickinson and sponsor of House Bill 1446, that he will form a committee consisting of board member Tim Mihalick and Lisa Montplaisir, faculty advisor to the board, with the potential to add others.

“It looks like committee meetings will be open, and somewhat fluid at the moment taking others’ comments,” Ryan said. “Specifically, should there be a president and a legislator on that committee? My personal preference is to keep the committee relatively small, be open, transparent and fair. The responsibility of taking on tenure does belong to us, and we will fulfill that obligation.”

Montplaisir, faculty advisor to the board, said the Council of College Faculties has been collecting documents related to post-tenure review from all NDUS institutions. She emphasized the board’s responsibility for adjudicating post-tenure review does not entail examining the process of obtaining tenure itself.

“The conversation doesn’t revolve around what is tenure and how it is granted, it’s what happens after somebody is granted tenure,” Montplaisir said. “We’re excited to be part of the process of looking at based upon what board policy is, are those processes in place and happening. If not, we want to know where the breakdown is.”


In other news from the State Board:

  • The board approved a request from UND to proceed with construction on a $20 million addition to the Fritz Pollard Athletic Center, to be funded through private donations.
  • The board approved the adoption of a policy to mandate coursework in digital literacy for all NDUS graduates. According to Vice Chancellor Lisa Johnson, the policy mirrors a North Dakota Department of Public Instruction initiative implementing digital literacy and cybersecurity training into the K-12 curriculum. The board will discuss a timeline for implementation at its May retreat.
Banish covers news pertaining to K-12 and higher education, as well as county commission coverage.
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