MSU makes legislative request
Student, staff recruitment among priorities
Minot State University is focused on student recruitment after seeing enrollment drop about 16.5% in the past eight years.
“It hasn’t fallen off the cliff, but it’s been kind of a constant drip,” MSU President Steve Shirley told a House Appropriations subcommittee Tuesday. “That’s relatively similar to what the overall (University) System numbers have been and national data as well.”
Recent enrollment numbers showed 2,167 students, according to MSU information.
Shirley spoke about efforts to recruit students, including a regional scholarship program that contributed to a 27% increase in freshmen from northwestern North Dakota in the past year.
The most recently announced effort is the Aspire Scholars program, designed to address the region’s teacher shortage by connecting young people with potential career opportunities while still in high school.
“One of the things we’ve heard over and over, particularly in some of the smaller schools, the rural schools, was the challenge to attract teachers,” Shirley said. “We came up with this grow-your-own concept. We now have high school juniors and seniors that the K-12 districts have identified as somebody we think is going to someday make a great teacher and wants to be a teacher.”
These students are connected with mentors, MSU students and faculty and are taking dual credit classes, with MSU picking up those tuition costs. The goal is that they decide to continue their educations at MSU and eventually return to the state’s small towns as educators, Shirley said.
Two years ago, MSU also began an online Para-to-Professional program, supported with grants, that so far has bestowed 27 school para-professionals with special education bachelor’s degrees.
MSU recently received a $4.3 million grant through the U.S. Department of Education to enable the university to work with the Bureau of Indian Education and schools in the Turtle Mountain area. The program gives graduate students opportunities to offer psychological services in the schools.
In addition, MSU has added a cybersecurity program, expanded its certificate programs and increased its nursing scholarships, all of which are under the auspices of building a workforce, Shirley said.
“We also have eliminated several academic, low-enroll programs,” he said. “I think a real retooling is underway right now of trying to make sure we’re offering things that students are interested in and there’s opportunities.”
MSU’s requested budget of $42.9 million is a 4.1% increase. The executive budget, which includes an enhanced salary and benefits package, provides $45.46 million, a 10.3% increase. The budget includes $765,000 to demolish Dakota Hall, a former residence hall now vacant but for a child care facility that uses part of the space.
Shirley stressed the need for faculty and staff pay raises. He said MSU has had some positions open for a few months or more with no applicants, requiring a look at the pay structure.
“It’s just an incredibly competitive environment right now with both the private sector and the public sector,” Shirley said.
The executive budget’s $2.7 million salary and insurance package forces colleges and universities to rely on tuition revenue to fund a share of the 6% first-year and 4% second-year pay raises over the biennium. That has raised concern about potential tuition increases. MSU’s cost for the raises is somewhat more than $1 million, said Brent Winiger, MSU’s vice president for Administration and Finance.
“We are worried about retaining our great faculty and staff at our college. They are the heart of what we do, and hanging onto them is very important to us,” said Carmen Simone, campus dean at Dakota College at Bottineau. “But we do share that concern that if we are so fortunate to receive those dollars, it leaves a hole in our budget that we have to find some way to fill, and so, if there is any way to find some dollars legislatively to help us with that, we would be very, very appreciative.”
CB adds to capital project request
BISMARCK — A $4 million Old Main renovation has grown to a $8.3 million project since inception in 2016, prompting Dakota College at Bottineau to seek additional funds from the North Dakota Legislature.
DCB’s Old Main is being repurposed as the Rural Health Education Center to accommodate expansion of the nursing and nursing assistant programs and create a campus option for the online medical coding and transcription programs. DCB received $2.5 million from the state and committed to a capital campaign for $1.5 million, of which $861,000 had been raised as of mid-December.
Campus Dean Carmen Simone said the college recognized late last year that the $4 million budget would not be adequate to complete the project. DCB requested another $3.7 million through the State Board of Higher Education, which has been included in the executive budget. However, inadvertently omitted from that request is $600,000 for fixtures and furniture. The new request is $4.3 million, Simone told a legislative committee Tuesday.
Simone explained inflation is contributing $1.54 million to the additional cost, while unanticipated structural expenses as well as the need for new windows, an elevator and fixtures and furnishings also are creating a larger expense.
DCB’s base budget request from the state’s general fund is about $10.2 million, or a 6.8% increase. Due to salary and benefit changes proposed through the governor’s office, DCB is included in the executive budget at $10.68 million.