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State Board of Higher Education approves UND's fundraising request

Board also approves EERC revenue bond request after amending budget.

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DICKINSON, N.D. – In a unanimous roll-call vote, the State Board of Higher Education approved the UND College of Engineering and Mines’ request to begin fundraising $86.5 million.

The money will go toward modernizing academic buildings and laboratory space, to help students and faculty better cope with increased research demands.

Following approval of the fundraising request, board members entered a roughly 80-minute executive session. According to the meeting's agenda, Vice Chancellor Darin King was expected to use the session to brief members on cybersecurity issues affecting the NDUS system.

Also at the Thursday meeting, the board reviewed a petition to increase lease revenue bonds to $30 million on behalf of the NDUS system. The increase was requested by UND’s Energy and Environmental Research Center, to finance improvements to its primary electrical distribution system, as well as replace its advanced materials processing facility.

Board member Jeffry Volk questioned the necessity to raise the bonds’ ceiling to $30 million.

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“In the packet that was sent out, the cost estimate for the project is exactly the same as when we approved the $25 million revenue bond. The estimate presented does not support the $30 million ask,” said Volk. “I’m not opposed to the revenue bond, but I’m concerned if it goes on to legislative ask, the two dots are not connected.”

Mike Pieper, associate vice president of facilities at UND, thanked Volk for his clarifying questions, and apologized for what he called “oversight on my behalf.” Pieper pledged to update the project’s proposal to its previously approved budget, and the board approved the revenue bonds.

NDUS Chancellor Mark Hagerott also outlined his goals for the upcoming year. These included responding to inflationary pressures on the university system, and addressing digitization of the state’s oil extraction industry. Hagerott stressed cooperation with state legislators to tackle these challenges.

Lastly, Hagerott announced an initiative to increase university students’ access to technical education, particularly in the western part of the state. He said that in conversations with legislators, they expressed concerns about North Dakota’s students leaving the state for more lucrative opportunities.

“The theme was over and over again, we don’t want our kids to leave the West to go to the East, can you export more to them here?” said Hagerott. “We have to upskill the western North Dakota workforce.”

Hagerott said a planned conference at Bismarck State College’s polytechnic institute will bring together academics and cyber professionals from across the country, to promote STEM education for the state’s students.

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