NDSU Tries To Explain Away Airplane Use

dean bresciani

In a story sparked, I believe, by my post yesterday about NDSU using the university’s private airplane to visit the legislature (it’s ok, news directors, to admit that you get story ideas here) Valley News Live asked university officials about the propriety of using the airplane.

And in the story, NDSU claims that not a dollar of tuition or tax dollars has been used to pay for the plane.

Valley News Live – KVLY/KXJB – Fargo/Grand Forks

I’m not sure I believe the claim. If experience has taught me anything, it’s not to trust much of what the university system says. I’ve put in a request for a list of the “donors and private investors” who are supposedly paying for the plane. And I’d also point out that while NDSU claims $100,000 in revenues from renting the plane out to other users, according to an AP report last year the university is spending more than $500,000 year to operate it.

I’m also not sure why it matters if the funds for the airplane come from tax payers/students as opposed to other sources. Even if NDSU isn’t using tax dollars, or tuition revenues, for the airplane the money is still coming from somewhere. The plane is using resources available to the university system.

At a time when students are being saddled with higher tuition every year, at a time when the taxpayers’ obligation to higher education in the state spirals continually upward, the folks at NDSU are prioritizing these resources not toward defraying costs to taxpayers or students but rather to ensuring that the university’s elite have a luxury like a private airplane at their beck and call.

It is an extravagance that ought not exist at NDSU, an institution that not so long ago was claiming they’d have to cut core academic programs due to funding shortages. Is that the priorities we want from university leadership? A willingness to cut into academics, but not perks for administrators like a private airplane?

Yesterday a round-trip to the legislature and back by the airplane cost an estimated $8,400 (based on the hourly cost of operating the airplane).

Does that really sound like an efficient, prudent use of the university’s resources, with tuition and higher ed spending both going through the roof?

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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  • reggy

    Excellent points here. Even if the taxpayers aren’t paying for it, there’s so many uses for this money that would be more in line with the mission of public education.

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob


  • RCND

    I would rather see those “donations” (if they exist) go to helping in state students with their tuition. Their argument is just a distraction

  • JW-American

    Here is what ticks me off about the whole “Donor” thing, It would seem that fundraisers would have to be soliciting some one to donate to this or that,

    So fundraiser “Rob”, talks to Daddy Warbucks and asks what..?

    “Would you like to donate 25,000 dollars to our… pick one…. Airplane fund, Alumni Center, Indoor track and field project, Remodel of the BSA, Presidents house landscape project, NDSU Foosball Program, or maybe, just maybe, yes I know its silly, but how about… Na, you wouldn’t really want to contribute to a scholarship fund, or for a new Science building, or some new dorms. We could name a building after you, you know.

    Na I didn’t think so, I’ll put you down for 25K to fly our glorious president back and forth to Bismarck. At 8000 bucks a flight thats 3 flights. thank you, will talk soon.

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      Well, even sillier than the donors thing, is the “private investors” thing.

      So, what exactly are they “investing” in? The glory and eminence of the NDSU president?

      • jimmypop

        “So, what exactly are they “investing” in? The glory and eminence of the NDSU president?”

        actually…..in a way, yes. the “investment” to treat him (or whomever) liek a king will keep him here. like coach bohl. he only gets paid as much by private folks as tax payers pay him. they ‘invest’ in him to keep him here. if bohl was only getting paid his tax dollar pay hed be gone already.

        business owners should get only what we pay for and should expect nothing more.

        • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

          You’re assuming that what we’re “getting” from people like Bohl and Bresiciani is of value to the students and the taxpayers.

          Because they’re really not worth what they’re paid. Really.

          • joe mauer

            One brought home a national championship the other runs the premier college in North Dakota and they are over paid? You are becoming more arrogant and ignorant in your rants. Anything you earn over $5 a day should be returned. REALLY.

          • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

            Nearly 80% of students who start at NDSU don’t graduate after 4 years. Less than half graduate after 6. Tuition has grown dramatically at NDSU over the last decade, roughly doubling, but the value of a degree has not doubled.

            The school’s academic performance is atrocious.

            And Bohl pulls his salary from a heavily-subsidized football team that taxpayers and, more tragically, students must subsidize.

            Yes, they are overpaid.

  • Guest

    As a pilot, I sincerely doubt the cost of the round trip was $8,400. The Associated Press article that you reference was qualified with the idea that the fixed costs for having the airplane (equipment, storage, etc) are there, and are fairly high, but they do not change on an hourly basis. The Hourly costs are the fuel, pilot’s and any airport fees. The more the plane is used, the lower the hourly cost for flying will be as the fixed costs will get spread out over more trips. It isn’t a flat $5,600 cost per hour, that is very misleading. It just averaged out to that amount due to the limited use of the plane and the high fixed costs that are there whether the plane is used or not.

    • OldConserv2011

      No matter how one breaks down the cost, it’s much cheaper to lease a bus and establish a regular route between Fargo and Bismarck for commuting state employees. If our state employees are so untalented that they’re unable to plan their business schedules to ride a daily commuter, then why are we paying their salaries?

      I work in the energy industry and am based in Minot, but need to travel frequently to Tioga. Our company employs the use of a daily shuttle between the two cities and it works just fine. The ride actually gives me time to prepare for my day and get caught up on my reading. Perhaps the university needs to take a lesson from private industry. Oh wait…why bother when they have no board of directors or stockholders to answer to?

  • Roy_Bean

    Clear something up for me, please. If private individuals can donate money to NDSU for a plane, and NDSU is a state institution run by state employees, then can I give a new Cadillac to Wayne Stenehjem for his use on “official” business? Maybe oil companies might want to “donate” cars to the PSC or insurance companies could “donate” cars to the Insurance commissioners office. It was always my understanding that when you “donate” something to a government entity that what ever you donated becomes government property and is subject to the laws of the state. If it is donated to an individual for their use then doesn’t someone owe some income taxes?

  • Paulrey

    You have a right to voice your opinion as does everyone but, you should really get your facts about NDSU completion rates straight. The figures you have highlighted are skewed in that they don’t account for students who choose to be part-time and thereby don’t complete within 4 years (intentfully). You also need to reflect programs (such as Architecture) that are designed to extend beyond 4 years due to industry standards and so forth. Rates also do not reflect students who choose to transfer out yet complete at another institution.

    Regarding donations to NDSU…why should an individual have to disclose to you or anyone what they choose to contribute to?… Remember, many of these donors are not ND residents and owe the state (or its’ institutions and residents) NOTHING. What they elect to do with their money is their choice and their business alone. We should be happy they are willing to do so…it allows us to continue to slide by with covering only 25% of the NDSU bill/budget.