State Senator: Maybe We Should Make The Universities Spend Their Tax Dollars On Students


Yesterday I spoke with Grand Forks state Senator Ray Holmberg here at the NDGOP state convention in Minot. Holmberg told me that he’d given an exclusive (with apologies to me) to the Grand Forks Herald on a proposal for higher ed spending.

He said I’d find it interesting. Today the article up, and he was right. It’s interesting:

A state senator from Grand Forks is crafting a bill that would require North Dakota’s public universities to dedicate a portion of their state funding for instructional purposes only.

Sen. Ray Holmberg told the Herald Friday that the proposal would force universities to be more prudent with new general fund money appropriated by the Legislature, while helping hold down tuition increases.

The percentage that universities may be required to set aside for instruction under the bill could be as high as 80 percent, he said.

As justification for the policy, Senator Holmberg cites a number I’ve written about often here on SAB, which is the growth in non-instructional payroll in the North Dakota University System as compared to growth in the number of people engaged in teaching students:

He said growth in the number of nonteaching positions throughout the state’s universities is “dramatic compared to what has happened with people who are actually teaching students.” A Legislative Council report showed that the number of “noninstructional” people employed by the North Dakota University System increased by 40 percent between 2003 and 2011, while instructional employees grew by 3.5 percent in that time.

Here’s a graph showing that growth in instructional versus non-instructional staff for the whole university system using the Legislative Council numbers Holmberg cites:


Also worth noting is that in the last decade, the biennium budget for the university system has grown by a half billion dollars, while enrollment has grown by just roughly 3,000 students.

You have to wonder how it is we’re spending so much more to educate not that many more students. Where is the money going?

I think the answer is clear. Bloated administration, lavish campuses and perks, and aggressive salary growth.

Holmberg’s proposal would force universities to focus the funds the legislature appropriates on students. Which, one would hope, would refocus the universities on what is supposed to be their core mission. Which isn’t sports teams, or deals with big business, but serving the students of the state of North Dakota.