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NDSU losing 95 positions in budget cuts, but no layoffs likely

A file photo of the North Dakota State University campus in Fargo.

FARGO -- Administrators at North Dakota State University expect to trim the budget for 2017-19 by $15.7 million to meet a 10-percent reduction target without resorting to layoffs.

The university has received 90 applications for buyout incentives and will review those. Employees also can reconsider their applications, so a smaller number of buyout acceptances is likely, Provost Beth Ingram said Monday, Sept. 19.

“Not everybody is approved for the program,” she said, adding that a final decision is months in the future. “It’s actually a pretty lengthy process.”

Not filling staff vacancies and reducing hours for part-time employees also can help to reduce costs without forcing layoffs.

According to documents submitted to the North Dakota University System, NDSU faces the elimination of 35 full-time positions through budget cuts to the current budget, with another 60 forecast under the reduced 2017-19 budget.

NDSU has 34 vacant positions. Ingram has been working with work groups to identify ways to reduce costs without laying off staff or killing academic programs.

“I think we’re in really good shape to manage in a collaborative way,” she said.

No academic programs are slated to be eliminated, although NDSU is contemplating dissolving its College of University Studies, an option for freshmen who have not declared a major or students who devise their own undergraduate degree.

Those students would be transferred to other departments, and the option to get a tailored university studies degree will remain open, Ingram said.

“Our goal has been to protect the students, their academic experience, and protect people,” she said.

Despite the efforts to minimize the impacts from the budget cuts, the reductions will be felt, Ingram said.

“Certainly the university is going to be a different place and it’s not going to be painless,” she said.

For instance, students can expect larger class sizes and fewer elective courses, Ingram said.

The state university system has compiled plans from the 11 public campuses calling for the elimination of about 490 positions, assuming a budget that has been reduced by 10 percent.

Of the 490, 190 positions are vacant, 125 would be eliminated through early retirements and about 125 would be eliminated through layoffs, according to figures presented by Tammy Dolan, the university system’s chief financial officer.

The equivalent of about 70 positions would come from reducing contracts or hours worked by part-time workers. The university system employs the equivalent of 6,591 full-time faculty and staff on the 11 state campuses.

“This is just a plan and it’s a planning process,” Dolan said Monday. “Nothing is set in stone.”

Each campus is offering some program involving buyouts or early retirement offers, she said.

Plans will evolve and be modified once the North Dakota Legislature convenes in January and the revenue picture clarifies, Dolan said.

“In the end, it comes down to staff,” she said, noting that employees comprise the vast majority of operating costs in higher education. “It will affect positions.”

Patrick Springer

Patrick Springer first joined the reporting staff of The Forum in 1985. He can be reached by calling 701-241-5522. Have a comment to share about a story? Letters to the editor should include author’s name, address and phone number. Generally, letters should be no longer than 250 words. All letters are subject to editing. Send to letters@forumcomm.com

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