The North Dakota University System Is Out Of Control

This morning, the Bismarck Tribune editorial nailed it when it comes to the Board of Higher Education’s approach to dealing with the NDSU tuition issue:

The decision by the North Dakota Board of Higher Education to allow North Dakota State University to increase its tuition charges by 8.8 percent, less than two weeks after the state Legislature adjourned, shows a lack of respect for the people of the state and their elected representatives.


the Board of Higher Education can’t just thumb its nose at the Legislature and expect to get away with it.

While it is accurate that the Board of Higher Education has over the last decade has repeatedly and systematically balked at the will and intent of the legislature.

As the Minot Daily News said today in it’s editorial:

Apparently a record higher education budget and a strong recommendation from legislators that schools keep tuition increases to 2.5 percent simply wasn’t good enough for NDSU, as school president Dean Bresciani argued that the university needed to raise tuition 8.8 percent to prevent any cuts in programs, declaring that there was “no fluff, no fat” in NDSU’s budget.


And what should legislators think of this? All their work and debate and number-crunching to create an acceptable higher education budget wasn’t good enough for at least one university, even though it was a record $645 million budget. We hope the members of the Legislature are keeping an eye on this issue, and we hope they have long memories.

Indeed, legislators do have good memories when it comes to these sorts of things.

State Representative Mark Dosch (R-Bismarck) has been a leading voice for higher education reform for many years.

During the 2011 legislative session, Rep. Dosch sponsored several bill that NDTA fully backed.

* House Bill 1470 would have returned final say on tuition increases to the legislature, as had been the case prior to 1999.

* House Bill 1369 would have added new requirements to the North Dakota University System’s accountability reporting, including a cost-benefit analysis of subsidies to non-resident students.

* House Bills 1444 and 1445 would have changed the funding formula for North Dakota Universities based on their ability to recruit more North Dakota High School graduates.

Representative Dosch has put himself out of the front line of this issue, and yesterday called for the resignation of North Dakota University System Chancellor Bill Goetz:

Rep. Mark Dosch, R-Bismarck, said that Chancellor Bill Goetz ought to be asked to resign by the Governor for his lack of leadership in putting together a more affordable and effective system of statewide higher education.

With NDSU students saying they felt pressured to support the tuition increases, It’s no wonder that Former Governor (and current NDTA advisor) Ed Schafer called President Dean Bresciani handling of the tuition hike “seriously bad leadership”:

Schafer said that Bresciani displayed “seriously bad leadership” in his decision to go to the students with only threats of massive cuts to their core programs without giving them a full plan or specifics on what things would look like without the tuition increases. “It’s pushing the decisions and the importance of this issue onto the students, which is unfair. What could they do?” stated Schafer.


“I think what the university system in general has done is skim off the edges [when cutting expenses],” Schafer said. “They never make the necessary adjustments to live within their means.” Instead, Schafer said that they don’t give earned salary increases and put off regular building maintenance, then they later go back to the legislature and ask for one time funding to fix problems created entirely by intentional neglect during prior years.

“They refuse to adjust their business plan to the dollars that they have,” Schafer told listeners. “Instead of building excellent programs, with well paid, high technology, they say ‘Let’s just skim everything, give everyone a little, then whine that we don’t have enough.’ That’s a bad business model.”


Schafer dismissed Bresciani’s claims that his school is severely underfunded compared to other schools in the country. “Those peer groups are bogus. They just pick out the peers they want to compare themselves with,” said Schafer, noting that every governor has stated that he/she hears the exact same thing from his/her university system. “Everywhere you go in this country, universities say they are not up to par with their peers.”


“We need to design this system to work, and whether that’s a two tiered system or a feeder system to the bigger universities,” continued Schafer, “we are going to continue to face this problem every two years when we are in a legislative session.”

Clearly something drastic needs to change in the North Dakota University System. The Board of Higher Education rejects the idea of being accountable to the legislature, even though the legislature is the body that cuts the checks using taxpayer dollars.

With a 76% increase in ongoing state funding since 2003, the only reason that universities think they need to stick it to the students with higher education is because there is no one in the system to protect the student’s financial interests.

NDTA views students as future taxpayers, and as such will continue to track this situation.

Dustin Gawrylow is the executive director of the North Dakota Taxpayer’s Association.

Related posts