ND Higher Ed Board President Blames University System Scandals On Lack Of Funding


If there’s one certainty in North Dakota politics, it’s that the state’s university system will always want more money.

When things are doing great, they want more money so they can keep doing a great job. When things are going poorly, they want more money so they can do a better job.

Right now we’re in a “things are going poorly” cycle – the Dickinson State University scandal, etc., etc. – and like clockwork State Board of Higher Education President Duaine Espegard is calling for more “investment” (not, you know, spending) into higher ed to make things all better.

“The Dickinson State issue or the controversy over the costs of the UND and NDSU presidents’ homes could have been avoided if the system had been adequately staffed with compliance officers and auditors,” wrote Espegard in a letter to the Grand Forks Herald.

Because there’s nothing that can’t be fixed with a larger budget, right?

But Dickinson state and the other problems in the university system aren’t the result of too little spending. They’re the result of a university system that is several times larger than a state with just 670,000 citizens needs, and is far too independent of oversight from the state’s elected leaders. Our legislature is part-time because governing North Dakota doesn’t require a full-time legislature.

Nor do the higher education needs of North Dakota necessitate a $1.2 billion, 11-campus university system.

Besides, spending on higher education in North Dakota has far outpaced enrollment, going up over 90% since the 2003-2005 biennium while full time equivalent enrollment has increased just 11.5%.

“North Dakota is entering a new era, and it’s imperative that we make good decisions about where we invest the proceeds of our prosperity,” Espegard also writes in his letter. “What better investment than in the education of the generation who will lead our transformation from the state that has been the country’s best-kept secret to the state that quickly is becoming the envy of the world?”

But it’s not at all clear that the increased spending on higher education in North Dakota is actually going to education. Since the 2003-05 biennium, the number of instructional employees at the state’s universities (those actually engaged with teaching) increased just 3.54%. During that same time period, the non-instructional payroll count at the universities increased over 40%:

Also, salary for the university system’s top administrators has risen dramatically over the last decade:

The crux of the problem in North Dakota’s university system is that they’ve gotten away from basics. The university system was created in North Dakota to help educate the state’s students. Now not only has the system itself bloated well beyond that need, but the goal of education seems to be taking a back seat to “economic development” and “research” as evidenced by the increase of non-instructional staff.

It’s time for the state’s university system to get back to basics. And, since both the legislature and the governor lack direct oversight in managing the system, perhaps the best way to spur the bureaucrats like Espegard who are in charge is to stop giving them more money so that they are forced to re-prioritize.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters.

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  • kevindf

    These educrats could get 100% of the state budget and it still wouldn’t be enough for their insatiable greed.

    • $8194357

      Think how many Chinese kids they could fly in tho.

  • Mike Peterson

    These guys are nuts, and it seems the entire public suckers into the seemingly “noble” phrase, “invest in education.”

    • $8194357

      “Invest in indoctrination” would be the real truth, IMO.

  • VocalYokel

    The SBHE is going to sing this song all the way to the end.

  • Roy_Bean

    It seems like everyone they hire comes from California. We all know how fiscally responsible California is. Why would we expect anything else?

  • http://randysroundtable.blogspot.com/ Randy G

    You can’t flush enough money fast enough for the ND higher ed bunch.

  • $8194357

    Marxist indocrination, taxpayer money pits from hell…
    has “anyone” thought about teaching grade school and high school kids classes on the original intent and meaning of the Constitution?

    All they get these days is cultural terrorisms Political Correct anti American revisionism.

    By the time they maake it to “college” the field is well plowed and prpared to recieve the communist lies of the seeds planted in the last 12 years of
    “public education/indoctrination”.
    Globalist communism lives/rules in public acadamia.

  • $8194357

    The future of our country?

    Marxist academic indoctrinated Lenin’s useful idiots…

    Indoctrinate the child and so goes the country..



    It’s been said that if you want to find out where Communism is thriving, then go to America’s college campuses. Communism and Socialism are alive and well in America among those who depend on the hard work of capitalists. Without economic freedom, Socialism wouldn’t be possible. The former Prime Minister of Great Britain said, “Socialist governments traditionally do make a financial mess. They always run out of other people’s money.”[1]

    It goes deeper than this. There are a number of professors who are outspoken apologists for Communist dictators. For example, Grover Furr, a professor in Medieval English at Montclair State University, from the deep blue pro-Obama state of New Jersey, “recently denied Soviet Union Leader Joseph Stalin was responsible for the murder of millions, saying he has ‘yet to find one crime – one crime that Stalin committed.’ . . . I know they say he killed 20, 30, 40 million people,’ but ‘It’s bulls**t.’” Our tax dollars at work educating the next generation of freeloading voters.

    Most students are in college on someone else’s dime. State universities are funded by tax payers. In-state tuition is subsidized by money confiscated by property owners in the form of property taxes, sales taxes, and state income taxes.

    Most young people grow up under socialism. Everything is paid for them – food, clothing, shelter – by someone else, namely, their parents. They expect their parents to pay for their college education as well, and when they can’t afford it, it’s off to government-backed loans and grants and subsidized tuition.

    Read more: http://godfatherpolitics.com/8

  • ND Observer

    The Chancellor wants 30 more bureaucrats to have more control and oversight, yet the fraud and abuse was uncovered with the same staff as he has now. Hmmmm. It did not take more staff to uncover the problem just a decent Chancellor and board that would act when they found out the problem rather than cover it up during the Legislative session. How will the new bevy of board staff help increase the quality of education? It won’t because it can’t. These bureaucrats are six layers from students. Most of them would never interact with students in their entire career. This spending means less professors and more administration costs on the back of students and taxpayers – thus adding no value to what parents and taxpayers care about – students. The purpose is clearly to build a large empire of bureaucrats and administrators, not build quality education! Trust Legislators will show the new Chancellor the door and give him a one way ticket back to bankrupt California. We do not need his California way of thinking in North Dakota. For 5-10 years we should only invest in things that directly improve the quality and access to education, and make the bureaucrats and administrators live within their current budget.

  • Harold

    This guy is a democrat and we know they are never to blame for anything. Higher ed is no different then the dems we elect to office throughout america they all say someone else made this happen, I’m not to blame.

  • RCND

    The scandals were and continue to be a failure in LEADERSHIP, not a lack of auditors or compliance officers. That leadership was supposed to be the SBHE, the Chancellor, and the Presidents of each respective institution. The Governor fits in here as well since the University System is considered part of the executive branch, and while his appointments are one way, he still has a pretty powerful bully pulpit at his disposal.

    It is clear the leaders are not up to the task, especially when they try to blame others rather than take responsibility for their failures. The leaders, and the current system of university governance, is what needs attention. What was and is lacking is leadership, not funding.

  • JW -American

    transfer about 100-150 of those employees to a central purchasing, central HR, central payroll, central motor vehicle management, etc. there is so flipping much redundancy in this HE system.

    We only have what, 11 schools? Lets figure out how to cut at least 5-10% of those Employees without affecting edjukashune of the students.

    If they can call 1-800 numbers to get their cell phone bill straightened out, they can call a call center to solve their parking, student loan payments and dorm assignments figured out too.

    • JW -American

      In fact, close Bottineau and turn it into that Call center, convert Williston and Dix State into 2nd High schools for the Oil Boom and oil field safety training centers. Make Bismarck state and Minot State 2 yr Colleges with an emphasis on teaching students what they should have learned in High School. Re-program NDSU and UND to max 10,000 student each, if you cant make the cut you have to go to the other Schools till your grades are good enough for NDSU or UND. I don’t know what to do with Mayville, perhaps a 2 yr program like Bis and Minot?

      • Duh

        BSC is already a 2 year school genius

  • Freedom Liberty Patriot Lover

    Pro Tip: At least try to make sure that the image accompanying the headline is the right person. I’m sure you realize the image you have posted is not Duaine Espegard. I know that Dr. Fuller has been on your mind lately, but it just looks like sloppy journalism if a successful google image search can’t be executed – how should we trust the fancy graphs or any other information you are presenting if you can’t get this simple part right?

    • Dave

      I, too, was wondering who that was in the image that accompanied the post. I knew it definitely was not Duaine Espegard.

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      Well, I didn’t think it was that big of a deal. I couldn’t find a picture of Espegard I liked, so I figured a photo of one of the university presidents would suffice.

      I’ve replaced it with a photo of Espegard, if that makes you happier.

      But as for the “fancy graphs,” you could take the time to look the information up yourself. Or just trust me.

      I used enrollment information from the NDUS’ own report, and spending information from legislative council.

      • Freedom Liberty Patriot Lover

        Well done!