ND Universities Run To The Media To Blast Legislature Over Funding

Back in July, the state got a report about the condition of the buildings on university campuses, and it wasn’t good. The report detailed $808 million worth of deferred maintenance on the campuses, including some horror stories about research labs without working plumbing.

Now, someone in tune with the realities of the state budget and the priorities of the university system would look at that report and conclude that the university system hasn’t been using the windfall appropriations they’ve been getting from the Legislature. While the administrative payroll has bloated, while the campuses have expanded with one glittering new building after another, while the university presidents live in lavish homes and fly around in chartered airplanes (things like driving and coach class are for peasants not the well-heeled elite of our university system), their campuses have crumbled.

I wrote about it back in July.

But now someone in the university system seems to be putting a different spin on things, and they’ve gone to the media with it judging by two headlines which landed in my email inbox today.

This from the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal:

ndusheadline1
And this from Bloomberg:

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Those headlines make it sound as though the Legislature has been neglecting the universities even as the state has taken in windfall revenues from a booming economy and energy industry. No doubt that’s a narrative that serves higher education interests in the state well, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Here’s a dose of reality, by way of Legislative Council, which shows appropriations to the university system over enrollment for the last several bienniums. You’ll notice that enrollment growth has been flat, but appropriations have exploded:

higheredappropriations
What you’re looking at is a nearly 148 percent increase in appropriations over the last six bienniums, over just a 7.9 percent increase in enrollment (and note that enrollment is actually down from the last biennium).

What’s more, the number of actual North Dakota students we’re educating is in decline while the number of out-of-state students is increasing:

chart_1
That’s a lot more money to educate fewer North Dakota students and more out of state students. So, if the campuses are crumbling, where are all these appropriations going? Why are we building all these new buildings on the campuses – the Legislature approved more than $330 million in capital improvement projects for the campuses last session – when the existing buildings aren’t being maintained?

It would be nice if the folks at Bloomberg or the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal asked these questions, but I’m guessing that’s not the story they were pitched by the university system.

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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