Audio: Lawmaker Says North Dakota’s University System Needs to Change or Go the Way of Blockbuster

Rep. Rick Becker, R-Bismarck John Hageman / Forum News Service

Blockbuster Video was a corporate juggernaut.

Until it wasn’t.

The movie rental market got upended by a different approach. Everything from Netflix to Redbox to on-demand video rentals available through cable boxes or streaming services made trips to the video store, that staple of American life from another generation, obsolete.

Could the same thing happen in higher education? State Rep. Rick Becker, a Republican from Bismarck, thinks so. He made headlines this week when he spoke to the State Board of Higher Education telling them, among other things, that they’re operating too many campuses.

“Are we going to stick like Blockbuster did to the old model?” he asked.

I had Becker on my radio show yesterday. “I got asked out of the blue to see if I wanted to give some remarks to the State Board of Higher Education,” he told me of how he ended up in that position.

He said his comments about the number of campuses were just one part of a roughly 20 minute speech to the leaders of the state’s university system. He said he also told them that the universities are “top heavy with administrative bloat” and that change is needed in a world where accessing information is getting easier seemingly every day.

“Are we going to stick like Blockbuster did to the old model?” he asked.

“We’re going to have been left behind,” he added.

He made some interesting points about out of state students coming to North Dakota from Minnesota. Our state’s public universities are heavily dependent on out of state students, particularly from Minnesota. Currently, according to Becker, Minnesota has an agreement with our state to facilitate their students coming to our campuses. But Becker says Minnesota is starting to have trouble finding enough students to fill its own campuses, and wonders how long it will be until Minnesota breaks that agreement.

That could be devastating for the North Dakota University System.

Here’s the full audio of our interview:

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and the host of the Rob (Re)Port on Fargo-based WDAY AM970 from 1-2pm weekdays.

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