Legislature to review NDSU deal for nursing college

By Rob Port | Watchdog.org North Dakota Bureau

REQUEST FOR REVIEW: Rep. Bob Martinson, a Bismarck Republican, has asked that a deal between North Dakota State University and Sanford Health to run a nursing college be reviewed by the Legislature’s interim Higher Education Funding Committee.

BISMARCK, N.D. — Last month the North Dakota State Board of Higher Education approved the takeover of a Sanford-run nursing college in Bismarck by North Dakota State University, but now at least one lawmaker wants a second look at the deal.

“We have a school that continually talks about being underfunded, continually wants to raise tuition above what we would consider the norm, and now says they want to go a million dollars in debt for this school, and the board says ‘no problem,’” Rep. Bob Martinson, a Republican from Bismarck, told Watchdog. “Then NDSU came to our meeting (of the Higher Education Funding Committee) and said they need more money for research.”

Martinson has asked that the deal be added to the agenda of Higher Education Funding Committee for review.

During its March meeting, the board approved an already-signed deal between NDSU and the Bismarck-based Sanford School of Nursing. According to the contract, NDSU would need to ask for state tax dollars to operate the school after the first three years, and the school would need a building in which to operate, but when a member of the board asked if the issue should be taken to the Legislature, NDSU President Dean Bresciani said no.

“As we bring a new college into our system it involves public dollars. Should we bring our Legislature in to make a determination on this?” asked board member Kathleen Neset during the March 27 meeting.

“I don’t believe we go to the Legislature asking for a special accommodation for this,” Bresciani said in reply.

“They said they want to bail out a multi-million dollar health-care company when they claim they’re underfunded. How can this happen time after time?” asked Martinson, referring to another university system deal that has rankled lawmakers.

Earlier this year, University System Interim Chancellor Larry Skogen signed off on the sale of the REAC Building from the UND Research Foundation to the University of North Dakota. But Legislative requirements for how that deal was to be negotiated weren’t followed, and Skogen ultimately apologized for his handling of it.

Last week lawyers working for the Legislature said the REAC building deal cannot be lawfully invalidated.

You can reach Rob Port at rport@watchdog.org

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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