|Letter from Chancellor William Goetz|
Dear Students, Faculty and Staff,
As we begin discussion of the North Dakota University Systemʼs 2009-11 budget request, I believe it is especially important to establish a dialogue with you, the people who make our University System strong.
North Dakotaʼs 11 public colleges and universities are widely recognized for providing high-quality education and preparing students for personal and professional success.
While state funding for higher education has increased in recent years, additional financial responsibility has been placed on students and the institutions, resulting in higher tuition costs and re-prioritization of campus needs.
The good news is that our state is now in a strong financial position, making it possible to increase state funding for higher education and to address the unmet needs of our students and our colleges and universities. The 2009-11 budget request approved by the State Board of Higher Education focuses on these priorities. If funded, this budget will help the NDUS make significant progress in a number of key areas, including:
Affordability: More than 75 percent of North Dakota students apply for financial aid. While the majority receive some assistance, an increasingly larger portion comes in the form of loans, rather than grants. About $14 million more than the current appropriation for needs-based financial aid is included in the budget request as is a proposal to limit university tuition increases (DSU, MaSU, MiSU, NDSU, UND and VCSU) to no more than 4 percent and to hold community college tuition rates (BSC, LRSC, MiSU-B, NDSCS and WSC) at the 2008-09 levels.
Faculty and Staff Salaries: Although progress was made on faculty and staff salaries during the 2007-09 biennium, North Dakota faculty salaries rank 50th in the nation, while the state ranks 31st in the cost-of-living and 31st in average per capita income. To make additional progress on faculty and staff salaries, the NDUS budget request includes 7 percent average annual salary increases, plus full medical insurance coverage at no premium cost to NDUS employees.
Campus Security: Providing a safe environment on NDUS campuses is a high priority. The 2009-11 budget request includes funding to develop plans and responses to ensure safety and continuity of operations in the event of an emergency as well as investments in security infrastructure needs.
Deferred Maintenance: Older campus buildings create maintenance and upgrading challenges. These facilities contribute to a deferred maintenance backlog exceeding $110 million, underscoring the importance of this budget priority.
Technology: To remain competitive in today's educational environment, it will be necessary to expand the technological infrastructure that supports research, enhances student learning in the classroom and expands delivery methods to students. The state funding requested in the 2009-11 budget would leverage additional federal funding, maintain North Dakotaʼs electronic communication infrastructure and upgrade teaching and research laboratories.
Workforce Needs: A college education empowers the student to make career choices, and opportunities to live and work in North Dakota are growing at an unprecedented rate.
All areas of the state and nearly every industry are reporting workforce or skill shortages. The 2009-11 budget request includes resources for NDUS institutions to collaborate on the delivery of academic programming that will help connect students with the workforce needs of North Dakotaʼs employers.
The complete 2009-11 NDUS budget request includes more funding priorities; some ask for one-time spending, while others would require increased base funding, which then would become part of the University Systemʼs ongoing operating budget. The 2009-11 NDUS budget request includes a base funding increase of 25 percent or $110 million. We realize this is an aggressive budget plan, but we also understand that an investment in the North Dakota University System is an investment in the future of our state. NDUS colleges and universities are a cornerstone of North Dakotaʼs economy. In fact, the University System generates about $3 for every $1 invested by the state.
I hope you agree that the budget proposal outlined above is a strategic investment plan for the people and state of North Dakota. I also hope we can build upon this dialogue as the 2009 Legislative Session approaches. Whether you are a student or a member of our faculty and staff, you are integral to our success. I thank you for your contributions, and I wish you a safe and enjoyable summer!
Bill Goetz, Chancellor
North Dakota University System
-- Jan Orvik, Writer/Editor, University Relations, email@example.com, 777-3621