Plain Talk: NDUS Chancellor Says It’s Time for Higher Ed to “Get Out of the Ivory Tower”


North Dakota University System Chancellor Mark R. Hagerott visits with the Editorial Board August 24 at the Grand Forks Herald. Jesse Trelstad/ Grand Forks Herald

The North Dakota University System needs funding from taxpayers that is more stable. But also, the university system itself needs to “get out of the ivory tower” and do a better job of serving the labor and career needs of the state.

That’s what NDUS Chancellor Mark Hagerott said on this episode of Plain Talk.

He said that in the past academia was ensconced “literally in towers” focused on “deeply thinking about philosophy.” It caused them to be “detached from reality.” Hagerott believes academia could do a better job of taking a more pragmatic approach to higher education.

But he also said the State of North Dakota could do a better job of delivering consistent funding. He spoke with reporter Sydney Mook recently about drastic cuts to higher education proposed by the State of Alaska and compared them to the recent cuts North Dakota’s universities have faced.

“We are in a battle for research,” Hagerott said, “and they are eating our seed corn.” He is referring to the fight to keep other institutions from poaching North Dakota researchers, and believes that a “stabilizaton of the higher education budget like K-12” could help combat that trend.

In North Dakota funding for the K-12 education system is backstopped by trust funds – or “buckets” in the parlance of state policy makers – like the Foundation Aid Stablization Fund and the Common Schools Trust Fund which receive a percentage of the state’s oil tax revenues. Hagerott proposes something similar for higher education.

Also on this episode, the arrest of an alleged sex worker operating as a massage therapist in Minot has actual massage therapists calling for tougher enforcement of licensing laws. But is that what we need? Or do we need to start licensing sex workers?

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