This Is Why The Cost Of Higher Education Is Out Of Control


At yesterday’s meeting of the State Board of Higher Education it was suggested that the board look at ways members can attend meetings remotely. After all, it costs board members a lot of time and taxpayers a lot of money to get members to assemble at the various campuses they meet at every month.

“Chief of Staff and Vice Chancellor for IT and Institutional Research Lisa Feldner said face-to-face meetings cost an average of $5,000, including travel, lodging and staff,” the Grand Forks Herald reports. “In total, the meetings cost the North Dakota University System $60,000 annually.”

That sounds like an opportunity to save the taxpayers some money, and good on the board for addressing it. But get a load of the cost estimate to set up remote attendance for board members.

“[Feldner] said effective video equipment to hold meetings remotely would cost about $4,000 per site to install up front but would save money in travel expenses over time.”

Just so we’re clear, video conferencing software like Skype and Google Hangouts is free. As in, it costs nothing to use. And these days every tablet and laptop comes with a webcam built in. Couple that with the ability to email documents, and share other media through file sharing services the university system already has, and it’s hard to imagine what they’re going to spend $44,000 on ($4,000 for each of the state’s 11 public campuses).

I mean, it’s not like these people are discussing state secrets. They are public servants holding public meetings.

I’m sure the university folks will form a committee to study the issue and then hire a contractor to reinvent the wheel with a bunch of new hardware and proprietary software, because that’s how they do things.

Meanwhile, the average biennial increase in general fund spending on the university system in North Dakota has is 24 percent from the 2005-2007 biennium through the end of the 2013-2015 biennium in June. But the two things couldn’t possibly be related, could they?