The 68th Legislative Assembly was very good to higher education in general, including the University of North Dakota. North Dakota’s flagship university did well due to the leadership of many including President Andy Armacost, Vice President for Finance and Operations Karla Mongeon-Stewart, and Vice President for Health Affairs Dr. Joshua Wynne, UND Caucus leaders Jim Poolman and Jonathan Holth, representatives from the UND Alumni Association & Foundation, many legislators and other engaged alumni and friends.
Record Funding Passed
The 68th Legislature Assembly passed a record funding bill in HB 1003. The House of Representatives Appropriations – Education and Environment Division, chaired by Rep. Mike Nathe and consisting of Representatives Karla Rose Hanson, Bob Martinson, David Richter, Mark Sanford, Mike Schatz, Steve Swiontek, put forward a historic higher ed bill which was supported by the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee, chaired by Rep. Don Vigesaa, and passed by the House of Representatives.
The Senate Appropriations – Education and Environment Division, chaired by Sen. Ron Sorvaag with members Senators Karen Krebsbach, Scott Meyer, David Rust, and Don Schaible, received the House version of the bill with orders to trim as much as $200 million from the budget. The Senators worked diligently to protect the integrity of the House bill, but at the same time meet the budget cutting needs. In the end, the Senate Appropriations Committee, chaired by Sen. Brad Bekkedahl, and the Senate passed a reduced, but still fair and equitable, version of the bill.
The Conference Committee of Representatives Mark Sanford (chair), Bob Martinson, and Steve Swiontek, and Senators Ron Sorvaag, Karen Krebsbach, and Don Schaible, made further cuts, but, again, tried to maintain the integrity of the bill.
Also highly supportive of the higher ed budget as well as other UND-related bills were the Grand Forks legislators: District 17 Sen. Jonathan Sickler, Rep. Mark Sanford and Rep. Landon Bahl; District 18 Sen. Scott Meyer, Rep. Corey Mock and Rep. Steve Vetter; District 42 Sen. Curt Kreun, Rep. Emily O’Brien and Rep. Claire Cory; and District 43 Sen. Jeff Barta, Rep. Zac Ista, and Rep. Eric Murphy.
Other Areas of Impact
- UND - $176.7 million
- SMHS - $80.8 million
UND started the Legislative Session with a base budget of $150 million. The funding is based on the complicated funding formula which is predicated on the generation of credit hours. The per credit hour rate went from $61.81 to $73.15 representing an 18.3% per credit increase. This increase included the funding of the state AND student share of a 6%/4% salary increase pool, as well as the coverage of a 15% health insurance increase for appropriated positions.
To help students and families, the Legislature took the unusual step of freezing tuition and at the same time providing funding to all of the state’s public higher education institutions to cover the loss of revenue from not increasing tuition to offset salary and benefits increases. Suffice it to say that UND fared very well with a new base budget of $176.7 million.
The UND School of Medicine & Health Sciences (SMHS), funded through a separate appropriation, also did well, ending up with $80.8 million.
Another important addition to the funding formula was the reinstatement of the “hold harmless” clause that states that a university or college will be funded at no less than 96% of the funding it received in the prior biennium. The hold harmless clause is intended to help institutions stay afloat in the face of sudden financial difficulties. UND did not need the hold harmless clause in the current biennium, but is supportive of the premise.
- UND - $20.9 million;
- SMHS - $9.1 million
The 68th Legislative Assembly included funding to increase salaries for all state
employees, including UND employees, by an average of 6 percent in the first year of
the biennium and 4 percent in the second year. Increases are to be based on merit
and not across-the-board increases. UND and SMHS, respectively, received $24 million
and $6.7 million in pay and benefits funding. In addition, UND – like all state agencies
– received equity funding to help bring underfunded positions closer to market averages.
Market Equity Funding:
- UND - $4.9 million
- SMHS - $1.9 million
UND received funding for market equity adjustments to be made prior to June 30, 2023.
This funding came out of the OMB bill and will be used to address the most egregious
market inequalities as of the end of the fiscal year. This funding will be added as
base funding in the 2025-27 biennial budget
- UND - $5.8 million
- SMHS - $1.3 million
Health insurance rates increases by 15% for the upcoming biennium. The Legislature
funded the state and student share of this increase including funding for UND of $5.8
million and SMHS of $1.3 million for the biennium.
1% increase in Defined Benefit Plan employer contributions:
- UND - $127,000
- SMHS - $42,000
The passage of HB 1040 closes the State’s defined benefit retirement plan, requiring new employees to join a newly-created Defined Contribution Plan. HB 1040 injected $200 million into the defined benefits plan (which continues for current employees) and increases the employer contribution rates by 1 percent. The funding cited above represents funding provided by the Legislature for the “state share” of this expense. UND and SMHS are expected to fund the remaining $430K and $65K (respectively) with other funds including tuition for the 2023-25 biennium.
- UND - $2.7 million
- SMHS - $2.2 million
Although different numbers were batted around during the Legislative Session, in the end the Legislature funded the Challenge Grant Program at $20 million – an $8 million increase over the previous biennium.
For UND, this means a total of $4.9 million: $2.7 million for UND in general (out of which $250,000 is earmarked for the School of Law), and $2.3 million for SMHS. DeAnna Carlson Zink played a key role in advocating for the Challenge Grant in providing testimony before both the House and Senate Appropriations - Education and Environment Divisions.
STEM Complex (Phase 1, Engineering): $57.4 million
Through the great efforts of Rep. Mark Sanford, UND was appropriated $57.4 million
for an $82 million engineering building, which makes up phase one of a STEM (Science,
Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) complex. UND must raise at least $24.6 million
from local funds, primarily through the UND Alumni Association & Foundation. In addition
to the appropriation, the bill included intent language for funding the second phase
of the STEM Complex in the next Legislative Session.
Merrifield-Twamley Inflation Adjustment: $5 million
In the 2021 Special Session, the Legislature appropriated $50 million to UND for significant renovations to Merrifield and Twamley halls. The 68th Legislature appropriated $5 million to UND to help offset the effects of inflation on the renovations.
National Security Initiative: $9 million (one-time)
The Legislature also included $9 million for the National Security Initiative, which will be headquartered in the STEM complex. Several deans and members of the UND National Security Initiative Team “Wowed!” the members of the House and Senate Education and Environment Divisions in presentations to those two committees. Particularly exciting to the legislators was the work to build satellites; build, test and fly rockets; and work toward greater national security.
Between the 67th Legislative Session, the Special Session in 2021, and the 68th Legislative
Session, the North Dakota Legislature has provided $23 million for the UND National
Security Initiative. Rep. Bob Martinson deserves great, great thanks for his support
and advocacy. Rep. Mike Nathe also has been supportive.
State Energy Research Center: $7.5 million
Funded under a bill championed by Sen. Jonathan Sickler, the State Energy Research
Center at the UND Energy & Environment Research Center was appropriated $7.5 million
with a funding sunset clause of 2027. An important piece of the bill was the removal
of the sunset clause on the Center itself.
Research Network: $2.5 million
The legislature also funded $2.5 million each for both UND and NDSU to continue funding
of Internet 2; a network necessary for high performance computing and research. Though
this funding was not added to the funding formula, we are hopeful for permanent funding
to continue in the next biennium.
Research: $2.5 million
Sen. Ron Sorvaag has championed the creation of the Economic Diversification Research Fund for three biennia. This time the Legislature appropriated $5.5 million for research, $2.5 million each for UND and NDSU, and a total of $500,000 for North Dakota’s other nine public universities and colleges.
Clinical Integrated Network Grant: $3.5 million
The Legislature appropriated $3.5 million to the SMHS Center for Rural Health to award
grants to a clinical integrated network.
Governor’s School: UND - $250,000
Thanks to the support and advocacy of Sen. Ron Sorvaag and Sen. Larry Luick, the Legislature appropriated $500,000 for the re-establishment of a Governor’s School, to take place during the summer and to alternate between NDSU and UND. Governor’s School must provide programs related to science, technology, engineering, mathematics, energy law, mental health, education, and health sciences. Each institution will receive $250,000 to defray the expenses of attendance for eligible high school students.
There were bills and issues that had the potential to create harm for UND and/or the UND Alumni Association and Foundation. Most of these didn’t survive the Session.
This resolution which would have put to the vote of the general population whether to continue a mill levy that provides about $11 million a biennium to the SMHS. The bill passed both chambers, but we were able to bring it back for a second vote in the House, where it was narrowly defeated.
Another example is a bill that, had it passed, would have prohibited a taxpayer from using “a charitable gift as the basis for a credit claimed under this section if:
a. The purpose of the charitable gift is to provide a scholarship;
b. Receipt of the scholarship is conditioned on qualifications, characteristics, or traits of the recipient designated by the taxpayer, other than a condition the recipient of the scholarship be enrolled in an academic program or course designated by the taxpayer.”
UND Alumni Association & Foundation and UND Caucus leadership played key roles in
defeating this bill early on in the Session.
UND leadership, UND Caucus leadership and other higher education leaders worked to reverse a last-minute amendment in the Office of Management and Budget bill Conference Committee that would have removed significant funding to UND and other higher education institutions for salary equity adjustments. The restrictive amendment was passed by the Conference Committee but overturned by the committee the next day.
Specified Concepts Bill
An example of a complicating bill that passed is the so-called “Specified Concepts” bill. It remains to be seen what, if any, ramifications the bill will have for UND and the other institutions within the North Dakota University System.
Join the Caucus
The University of North Dakota Caucus, organized by the UND Alumni Association & Foundation, is a group of engaged alumni and friends who feel passionately about the University. The Caucus advocates for legislation that is in the best interest of UND. Members are kept up-to-date on happenings in the North Dakota Legislature and may be asked to bring concerns to their hometown lawmakers.
If you are interested in advocating for UND, complete the form below.