OUR OPINION: Matching grants help universities meet challenge
What sets Harvard apart? Three hundred and seventy-seven years of history, sure. Plus a reputation built across that time of being one of the world's great universities in which to teach, research and learn. But Harvard's experience offers more p...
What sets Harvard apart?
Three hundred and seventy-seven years of history, sure. Plus a reputation built across that time of being one of the world's great universities in which to teach, research and learn.
But Harvard's experience offers more practical lessons, too, and one of them shows the importance of philanthropy. Today, Harvard boasts a $30 billion endowment. Not bad, considering the biennial budget for the entire state of North Dakota is $14 billion, and that includes state support for 11 institutions of higher education.
That's the power of philanthropy. Harvard has rich and very generous donors, and their gifts over the centuries have made the university an exponentially stronger place.
Credit North Dakota for taking that lesson to heart.
A very positive outcome of this year's legislative session is the creation of the North Dakota Higher Education Challenge. The new budget sets aside $29 million for this challenge fund, and here's how it will work:
Beginning July 1 and for a year-and-a-half after that, North Dakota will award $1 in matching grants for every $2 raised by the 11 colleges and universities' institutional foundations, "for projects dedicated exclusively to the advancement of academics."
The state will award up to $10 million in matching grants to UND, up to $10 million to North Dakota State University and up to $1 million to each of the other nine institutions.
With this program, North Dakota is not only recognizing philanthropy's transformative power in higher ed but also encouraging it. That's because matching grants are such a effective fundraising tool.
When Gov. Jack Dalrymple signs Senate Bill 2003, which creates the challenge, he will with the stroke of a pen boost the value of donors' gifts by 50 percent. As public radio listeners know, that counts: Matching grants prompt more as well as more generous giving, which is why public-radio fund drives use them so often.
The North Dakota Higher Education Challenge represents yet another way of stretching the state's revenue windfall to better the state for generations, not just a biennium. It's a farsighted and generous gesture, one for which lawmakers and the governor deserve thanks.