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NDSU's state funding cut solidifies at 18 percent, but no details on impact yet

FARGO—North Dakota State University officials had no immediate public reaction after the size of the long-awaited state funding levels were finally settled in the final day of the legislative session, a steep reduction expected to cause cuts across campus.

NDSU will receive almost 18 percent less state money for its operating budget in the two-year budget cycle starting in July than it did for the previous two years, in line with expectations of a cut in the range of 15 percent to 20 percent.

The North Dakota Legislature's higher education funding bill approved Thursday provides general fund support of $129.1 million for NDSU in 2017-19, a decrease of 17.9 percent from the $157.4 million appropriation for 2015-17.

A spokeswoman at NDSU declined to comment Friday, pending further guidance from the chancellor's office.

Earlier, NDSU President Dean Bresciani warned that a 20 percent budget cut would force layoffs and lead to fewer class offerings, larger class sizes and a longer track to graduation for some students. NDSU officials have said specifics wouldn't come until funding levels are certain.

Faculty leaders have described a "crisis in confidence" because of the looming cuts. Lawrence Reynolds, university distinguished professor in animal sciences at NDSU, issued a statement Friday saying the budget cuts would "make it nearly impossible to recruit outstanding faculty in the future."

In turn, he added, "With the loss of our best faculty it will take decades to restore the programs that will be impacted," saying it takes decades to build nationally competitive academic programs, just as it does with athletic teams.

"I am convinced the severe budget cuts to higher education that are being proposed will in face ensure a bleak future for the citizens of the state and region," Reynolds said.

NDSU's 2015-17 budget had already been trimmed 6.55 percent to deal with lagging state revenues caused by the continuing slump in oil and farm commodity prices that forced cuts throughout state government.

To absorb the 6.55 percent reduction, NDSU offered early retirement incentives, accepted by 95 faculty and staff, and imposed a hiring freeze. It also trimmed a vice president and several other staff in student services, with those duties assumed by other employees.

NDSU's 17.9 percent cut for 2017-19 was similar to cuts at the state's 10 other campuses, with most seeing state aid fall 18 percent to 19 percent, said Billie Jo Lorius, communications director for the North Dakota University System.

Last year, state appropriations provided 28 percent of NDSU's budget, with student tuition and fees contributing 25 percent, with the rest from research, auxiliary services such as dining, housing and the bookstore as well as gifts.

To help make up for the state funding cuts, lawmakers have allowed campuses to increase resident undergraduate tuition by up to 4 percent per year for 2017-19. Graduate students and non-resident students could face steeper tuition increases.

The State Board of Higher Education, which next meets May 15, is expected to consider tuition increases when it meets in June, Lorius said.

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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