Uh Oh: Legislators To Review NDSU "Bailout" Of Sanford Nursing College


About a month ago the North Dakota State Board of Higher Education rubber-stamped a deal pushed for by North Dakota State University President Dean Bresciani which has his institution taking over a Bismarck-based nursing college currently run by Sanford Health. Now I’m told the issue will be reviewed by one of the Legislature’s interim committees.

During the SBHE’s debate of the takeover, one board member actually questioned whether or not this deal should be taken to the Legislature. After all, the state’s institutions of higher education including NDSU often complain about being underfunded (they’re not), and this nursing college doesn’t cash flow. After the first three years,  NDSU would have to go to the Legislature for millions of dollars worth of support per biennium.

“I think it probably should happen, but 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.

NDSU President Dean Bresciani shot back that it was none of the legislature’s business (even though they’ll eventually be tasked with paying for it). “I don’t believe we go to the legislature asking for a special accommodation for this,” he said (video above).

The university system, embroiled in one controversy after another these days, may wish they’d looped the Legislature in.

One member of the Legislature’s interim Higher Education Funding Committee told me last night that they are requesting the “bailout” (that is the word used) of the Sanford Nursing College be added to the agenda for the committee’s next meeting.

“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 told me. “Then the NDSU came to our meeting [of the Higher Education Funding Committee] and said they need more money for research.”

“They said they want to bail out a multi-million dollar health care company when they claim they’re underfunded,” said Martinson. “How can this stuff happen time after time?”

Neither a date for that meeting nor an agenda has been posted on the Legislature’s website as of the time of this posting.

This review comes after the controversy over the University of North Dakota’s “bailout” of the REAC Building, which saw a bank (that’s also a major UND donor) get a sweetheart loan deal.

The Higher Learning Commission, the organization that provides accreditation for North Dakota’s public universities, is in the state this week to investigate complaints filed with them during Chancellor Hamid Shirvani’s short tenure in charge of the university system. This isn’t exactly the time the NDUS needs more negative headlines.

But these days it seems like the universities are in the headlines every week or so for open records violations and other controversies.