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UND medical school expansion delayed

The expansion of UND's School of Medicine and Health Sciences didn't make it into Gov. Jack Dalrymple's budget request, but, he said he certainly wouldn't oppose it if lawmakers added it in later.

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The expansion of UND's School of Medicine and Health Sciences didn't make it into Gov. Jack Dalrymple's budget request, but, he said he certainly wouldn't oppose it if lawmakers added it in later.

"If the Legislature studies this and they feel that there seemed to be a return there that they think valuable and they want to do it, we're certainly not going to be out there admonishing people to not do something," he told the Herald editorial board Thursday. "It's a dialogue that really needs to take place in the legislative arena."

The medical school expansion was fifth on the list of priority capital projects recommended to the governor by the State Board of Higher Education. Two unfinished projects were also added to the projects funded.

UND officials say the expansion is needed to increase the number of health care workers the university can train to meet the needs of a growing senior population.

Open-ended cost


Dalrymple said he worked his way down the board's list, agreeing to all the projects that had higher priority than the medical school for a total of $46 million. But when he reached the med school, the $28.9 million needed for that project, it was just too much, he said.

"We talked about all of the values, the good things that would come out of it, I think, are substantial but we didn't feel we could swing it," he said.

Adding the medical school would've increased capital project funding by 63 percent.

But there was something else that caused Dalrymple to hesitate: Projections of programming and operating costs over the next three biennium.

In the upcoming 2011-2013 biennium, cost increases, including construction, would go up by $34.8 million. In 2013-2015, cost would increase another $14.8 million. But 2015-2017, the projections, in Dalrymple's words, "seemed somewhat open ended."

"We were really not able to even get a definitive number on the cost that would be required," he said.

The constant cost increases are because of the gradual ramp up in the number of students and post-graduate residents.

Asked about the projections, UND's medical school released a statement from Dean Joshua Wynne: "We look forward to continuing to work with the governor and the Legislature on the health care work force plan, as we work together to meet the health care needs of the state."


Dalrymple did add two components of the work force plan -- a $1.2 million geriatric training program and a $1.2 million master's in public health program -- indicating his desire to support it in some fashion.

Future options

Even if lawmakers don't add the medical school to his budget, he said, there's always next biennium. "There is this sort of rotation of projects, especially ones of this size, normally don't make it on the first shot."

If the medical school can stay on the priority list, he said, it'd be No. 1 next biennium.

But in the next biennium, the state board may face another request from UND that could prove more urgent.

Law School officials said they need more space to satisfy the accreditation agency. The American Bar Association will be coming back in the 2013-2014 school year, meaning the problem may need to be addressed in the 2013 legislative session. This year, the $9.8 million Law School expansion was No. 15 on the priority list. If the board were to put it and the med school at the top of the list in the next biennium, that'd be two UND capital projects.

In a related discussion, Dalrymple indicated that distributing projects among different parts of the state does matter somewhat in funding decisions.

UND didn't get the medical school expansion or expansion at the Energy and Environmental Research Center this time, he said, but it did get a new data network center. That benefits the university system as a whole, he said, but it still is on the UND campus. "That still enters into the picture slightly."


Reach Tran at (701) 780-1248; (800) 477-6572, ext. 248; or send e-mail to ttran@gfherald.com .

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