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North Dakota chooses to heavily invest prosperity proceeds in future of higher education

Posted on 12/10/2012

For More Information Contact:
Linda Donlin, Director of Communications and
Media Relations
North Dakota University System
Phone: 701.328.2962

North Dakota chooses to heavily invest prosperity proceeds in future of higher education

The newly elected governor of North Dakota Jack Dalrymple last week expressed his confidence in the future of the state, its students, and in the North Dakota University System by recommending an unprecedented level of investment in higher education during the next biennium.

"We are deeply appreciative of the Governor's budget plan," said Hamid Shirvani, Chancellor of the state's university system. "Clearly, this is a budget built on a thorough evaluation of state needs, a commitment to put students first, and an understanding of our vision to enhance the quality of education in North Dakota."

The Governor recommended an increase of $89 million, or 14 percent over the last biennium, in funding for higher education, which includes $6.9 million to increase the state's merit based scholarship program and needs-based scholarship program. The $89 million includes employee salary and benefit increases similar to those of other state agencies. The budget creates a $30 million matching fund for endowments. In addition, the Executive Budget includes $177 million in one-time funding for capital improvements.

Dalrymple confirmed his high regard for North Dakota's institutions and said the state should be proud of its university system. Duaine Espegard, president of the State Board of Higher Education, said that Board members and Chancellor Shirvani, who took over the helm of NDUS on July 1, have spent a great deal of time with the Governor, legislators and the citizens of North Dakota in the past six months, outlining the system's broad new vision. "The Chancellor has logged more than 15,000 miles on his vehicle and has literally shaken the hands of thousands of North Dakotans as he has traveled the state," Espegard said. "The Governor's recommendation is a vote of confidence that our system is perfectly poised to provide this growing state and its booming economy with a highly trained workforce and the leaders of tomorrow."

Rep. Bob Skarphol, R-Tioga, chairman of the state's Higher Education Committee, said Shirvani is an "incredibly visionary" leader who was hired to help shape the future of higher education in North Dakota.

Sen. Rich Wardner, R-Dickinson, North Dakota Senate Majority Leader, said "Chancellor Shirvani is building a real system of higher education and is right on the course."

Higher Education Board member Kathleen Neset said she has been pleased to hear comments of support of the university system in communities across the state, about the Chancellor's understanding of the issues and about the professionalism of the office. Neset said, "One business leader commented that just about everyone in North Dakota knows our new Chancellor's name."

In addition to meeting with more than hundreds of legislators and many business leaders across the State, Shirvani also has been visiting North Dakota high schools, encouraging students to study diligently to prepare for the wonderful opportunities that are available for their education and careers in the state. He told students that the state's population is expected to increase 20 percent by the end of this decade, and there will be 120,000 job openings. About 70 percent of those jobs will require a college education. He said it's so important that students get a good education so that they can put all of their talents to full use, and that the University System's job is to help them do that.

"I am going to work with all of your good teachers here and at the colleges and with the Governor and the legislators who support the schools through the taxes your mom and dad pay," he said. "We are going to make sure our schools and colleges are outstanding places for you to go to get your education."

Douglas C. Munski, Ph.D., faculty member of the Higher Education Board and professor of Geography at the University of North Dakota, said that "the Chancellor's succinct and articulate presentation of the essence and importance of the system's plan for the future has been key to moving folks throughout the Peace Garden State to become energized about building the best system of higher education in the country."

In less than six months, Chancellor Shirvani and his team have developed and gained support for the Pathways to Student Success plan, a visionary proposal that is designed to raise the standards of P-20 education across the state. The plan, which will be implemented in the Fall of 2014, ensures that high-school students are sufficiently prepared for the rigors of higher education through strengthened and transparent admissions standards, advances graduate and professional education and provides greater accountability for measurable results. The plan was approved in a unanimous vote of the State Board of Higher Education and has been strongly supported by legislative leadership, the media and the business community.

SBHE Vice President Kirsten Diederich said that the plan is guided by the desire to exceed the educational attainments of the best-performing states to ensure college affordability for students, families, and taxpayers and to sustain our system's educational mission through faculty who are professionally and pedagogically committed to the mission and goals of their respective institutions.

"The plan meets the needs and expectations of our state to pursue the right goals, to allocate our resources optimally and to use them efficiently, and to develop partnerships that support the economic, social, and cultural advancement of our citizens," said Grant Shaft, SBHE past president and current Board member. "It will help us cultivate an environment committed to excellence in teaching and creativity while providing a roadmap that will guide North Dakotans through an increasingly dynamic and fluid environment tied to the global economy."

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