NDSU Uses Funds From Research Grants For Private Airplane

dean bresciani

Last week we got some interesting news from North Dakota State University about the funding sources for their controversial airplane.

NDSU had apparently told reporters from Valley News Live that the source of funds was private donors and investors, but when I filed an open records request asking for a list of those donors and investors, NDSU admitted that none exist. Rather, according to NDSU General Counsel Christopher Wilson, the source of funds for the roughly $1 million biennial cost of the airplane is interest from the university’s accounts maintained at the Bank of North Dakota as well as money attached to research grants the university receives.

Talking with my sources in higher ed, the use of these research dollars for an airplane for university administrators seems very problematic.

I asked for a list of grants from which these funds were pulled, and I got the 14 page list below from Mr. Wilson. To be clear, the funds come from “indirect cost recoveries” or “facilities and administrative” costs, which are pools of money intended to help the universities defray the costs of administering research grants. Federal grants are governed by the Office of Management and Budget’s Circular A-21, and NDSU itself has policy covering the use of grant funds.

It seems the use of these funds for NDSU’s airplane might be technically allowable. Perhaps not surprisingly, the legalese in the policies governing the use of these funds seems calculated to give the appearance of control and accountability if not the reality.

But in the real world I wonder how many of NDSU’s researchers know that part of their grant funds meant to address and facilitate their research is instead being used to fly around university big-wigs in a private airplane?

Should the research dollars taxpayers dole through federal, state and local governments to NDSU really be used for something that is more about the comfort and prestige of pampered university officials than the research itself?

For that matter, should interest income from the university’s financial accounts be used for such extravagances, instead of defraying the cost of NDSU to students and taxpayers?

This entire sorry spectacle illustrates once again the poor priorities of NDSU’s officials. Research, students and good stewardship of tax dollars takes a back seat to lavish perks for the university elite.

List of NDSU grants used for airplane by

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. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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  • http://Sayanythingblog.com The Whistler

    The Higher Ed cabal lied to us again. I’m shocked.

    Interest earned on University accounts is state money. Money to pay for overhead should go to paying necessary overhead, not frivolities.

    Suppose you were a business owner and he were to tell you he was sending himself on an unnecessary trip but it was ok because it was going to come out of interest on their bank accounts and wasn’t the business’s money.

    The Higher Ed system can’t be trusted with overseeing any public money (nearly everything they have is just that.) They spend our money foolishly and they lie about it when caught.

  • robertwetsch

    This isn’t surprising. The NDUS has been shuffling funds to where they want for some time. They have over $100 million in deferred maintenance costs because maintenance budgets have been raided by college presidents for whatever they wanted for years.

  • camsaure

    There is another million that should be deducted from their funding by the legislature. Why doesn’t some reporter attempt to get a comment from Dullrumple on this?

  • somebodysomewhere

    Another good reason to NOT attend NDSU. Spending money on administrative self interest again.

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      Unfortunately, we taxpayers bear the expense of NDSU whether we attend or not.

  • VocalYokel

    Give them a break Rob…they are obviously researching the effect of altitude on college administrators.

  • Roy_Bean

    But if we don’t increase tuition 10% they might have to shut down.

  • justahick

    I hate to break it to you………..My daughter, who is a researcher at a major out of state university, says that typically 45-55% of grant money generally goes to the general fund at universities. This is built into the grant applications and all parties are aware of the process. Agree or disagree that is the way it is………Some of you will have no place for your children, real or imagined, to go to a university.

  • JW-American

    in the KVLY story “not a dime of taxpayer money..” So a quick look at the list Cass County Commission, North Dakota State University, City of Fargo and Clay County, My favorite though was Hibernating Bats of ND, Good thing bats pay for airplane usage..

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