Letter: Save money by streamlining North Dakota University System
Recent columns have dealt with how budget cuts have affected higher education in North Dakota. For his part, Gov. Doug Burgum recently referred to college campuses as essentially state-subsidized job programs and suggested that perhaps some campu...
Recent columns have dealt with how budget cuts have affected higher education in North Dakota. For his part, Gov. Doug Burgum recently referred to college campuses as essentially state-subsidized job programs and suggested that perhaps some campuses can be replaced by a digital platform.
Clearly, Burgum assumes that if on-campus instruction is replaced by distance education, money is saved. But this assumption is naïve.
I've taught at UND for 37 years and online classes for 18 years. In my experience, the proper delivery of college coursework by distance education is even more challenging that classroom teaching and certainly much more than "information transfer," as Bergum suggested.
Further, the major cost of a campus is not the classrooms but the salaries. One can only hope that the governor would want qualified people running his "digital platforms."
On the other hand, many have called over the years for the closing of some of the campuses in the North Dakota University System to reduce costs and duplication. It's absurd for North Dakota's small population to maintain 11 state-supported colleges with many duplicated programs.
Proponents of this system typically rationalize the status quo as providing "greater access" to higher education and that North Dakota commits more tax dollars per capita to higher education than almost any other state.
What these proponents ignore is that North Dakotans also have more colleges per capita than almost any other state.
Recently, columnist Rob Port asked, "Burgum is saying the right things about the bloated university system, but does he have the courage of his convictions?" I would suggest that Burgum has more than demonstrated courage by bringing up such a difficult issue.
If Burgum truly wants to reinvent government, as he has claimed, working with the chancellor and the Board of Higher Education to streamline the university system would be a great start.
Petros is a professor of psychology at UND.