Before the legislative session began, NDSU announced that they were selling the expensive and controversial airplane they have at the read for use by university officials. During the interim, legislators questioned the need of having a private airplane available at beck-and-call for mere university officials especially at a cost that is 400% more than it would cost to simply charter flights as needed.

During the legislative session there was a fight to let NDSU keep the airplane. The House passed legislation ordering NDSU to sell the airplane, but the Senate amended the bill to allow the university to keep it.

But the final version of HB1033 – which also creates a management system for state aircraft – orders NDSU to be rid of the airplane within four years.

Here’s the language from the bill as it emerged from conference committee:

It is the intent of the sixty-third legislative assembly that before June 30, 2017, North Dakota state university discontinue the lease entered by the university for a KingAir B200 airplane and that North Dakota state university provide a report to the appropriations committees of the sixty-fourth legislative assembly regarding the status of its KingAir B200 airplane lease and efforts to utilize other air transportation services.

This isn’t a very strong move. We’re talking about NDSU having to get rid of their pointless, wasteful airplane not at the end of the coming biennium but at the end of the biennium after that. The next legislative assembly to convene could undo this requirement, and maybe that’s the point.

Maybe the legislators loyal to higher education are hoping the plane will be forgot about by then.

Despite abysmal academic outcomes, diploma fraud, skyrocketing costs for taxpayers and students and an on-going civil war between the university presidents and the chancellor/board the North Dakota university system is getting pretty much everything they want. They’re getting a huge budget increase, and no changes to the status quo in governance.

And NDSU gets to keep their extra-special airplane for at least four more years, and maybe longer if legislators lose their nerve.

The airplane may be a small problem in the context of the university system’s overall problems, but it’s a microcosm for what ails the universities in general. Wasteful spending aimed more at benefiting university officials as opposed to students, and legislators unwilling to make any real changes.