UND spent nearly $140K to find its new president

GRAND FORKS - The North Dakota University System estimates the search to find the University of North Dakota's next president was the most expensive in recent years.

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GRAND FORKS – The North Dakota University System estimates the search to find the University of North Dakota's next president was the most expensive in recent years.

The search cost was $139,907, which is about $56,000 more than the average cost of other recent university president searches and $20,657 higher than the original estimated cost of the search.

NDUS spokeswoman Billie Jo Lorius said the initial estimate of $119,250 was based on previous searches. Additional costs affecting the estimate were higher-than-anticipated advertising prices, a blizzard that altered some travel plans and the decision to have the candidates who visited campus stay for one extra day.

"The estimate was approved by everyone who was involved, but ultimately it's the committee," she said. "This is really ran by them. We wanted to make sure they had everything they needed to have a great search, and they knew what process they wanted to follow and what they wanted to do to get the job done as best they could."

UND spokesman Peter Johnson said the university is paying for the search with legislatively appropriated dollars. The school is reshaping its budget to address $9.5 million in cuts handed down from Gov. Jack Dalrymple's office in February, and Johnson said the search and expenses associated with it were already ongoing at that point.


"This is the principal position at the University of North Dakota, and we should do the best things to attract the best pool of candidates," Johnson said.

According to NDUS data, the last four university president searches in the state cost $83,505 on average, the most expensive being the $87,759 Minot State University search in 2013. The North Dakota University System chancellor position search last year cost $55,964 less than the UND president search.

University president searches in recent years have cost more in other states.

In 2010, MinnPost reported the University of Minnesota Board of Regents had budgeted $250,000 for a search to replace the president at the time. The 2013 presidential search at the University of Michigan cost $320,000, according to MLive. The search for a University of Nebraska president last year cost about $260,000, according to the Journal Star.

Hesham El-Rewini, search committee co-chairman and dean of the UND College of Engineering and Mines, pointed out those more expensive searches in an email.

"The committee was committed to maintaining a large pool in an open, inclusive, and thorough search," he said. "All decisions were made in consultation with the NDUS system office."

The cost of the UND presidential search paid as of April 8 was $133,606, with an estimated $6,300 in expenses to be paid in the future.

The largest expense was $85,525 for AGB Search, a consulting firm hired to assist with recruiting candidates. The contract shows AGB was to receive $70,000 and could be reimbursed additionally for up to $16,750 for travel and other expenses, though reimbursements stayed below that cap at $15,526.


According to the cost breakdown, running a job advertisement in the Chronicle of Higher Education was $2,576 more expensive than originally planned.

The second most expensive part of the search was out-of-state airfare, which cost $24,561. In February, the 12-person UND Presidential Search Committee spent two days in Minneapolis conducting in-person interviews with the 16 remaining candidates at the time. Lorius said a blizzard at the time increased food, lodging and travel costs.

"It was a bunch of little things that were put in place to ensure the right leader was found," she said.

A total of $13,940 was spent on lodging, $10,344 on non-employee expenses through travel vouchers and $3,642 on meals. The search cost $7,266 in salaries for State Board of Higher Education members and staff involved.

After the committee narrowed the pool of applicants, each of the six semi-finalists for the position also were flown to UND for campus visits in February and March, and Johnson said it was decided each candidate needed two full days on campus.

"The desire from the committee was to have the search to be as inclusive as possible," Lorius said.

The search committee met four times between between October and March before Mark Kennedy was named to the position by the SBHE on March 15, beating out Minot State University President Steven Shirley and University of Toledo Dean of Engineering Nagi Naganathan.

Kennedy is a former U.S. representative from Minnesota and will leave his position as director of the George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management to start work at UND July 1.


The price of a president

UND, 2016 - $139,907

North Dakota University System chancellor, 2015 - $83,943

Dickinson State University, 2015 - $85,221

Valley City State University, 2014 - $82,078

Minot State University, 2013 - $87,759

Lake Region State College, 2012 - $78,962

Source: North Dakota State University System.

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