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  • May Eggs & Issues Recap | A New Era of Higher Education - Part 1: North Dakota

  • May Eggs & Issues Recap | A New Era of Higher Education - Part 1: North Dakota

    May Eggs & Issues Recap | A New Era of Higher Education - Part 1: North Dakota

    Now that the North Dakota legislative session has come to an end for the biennium, The Chamber is working diligently to ensure our members get caught up on all that happened this session. One area The Chamber wants to educate its members on is higher education, as it affects our families, economy, workforce and future. 

    May 2, The Chamber’s Eggs and Issues series welcomed the business community to learn about higher education in the state of North Dakota, as well as the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for the North Dakota University System. 

    Headshot imges of speakers for the event

    This month’s Eggs and Issues speakers were North Dakota State University (NDSU) President Dr. David Cook and North Dakota State College of Science (NDSCS) President Dr. Rod Flanigan. 

    Jeffry Volk, North Dakota State Board of Higher Education (NDSBHE) member, kicked off the event with an overview of the higher education landscape in North Dakota. He discussed the North Dakota University System, which is a unified system of higher education that is governed by the NDSBHE, and some statistics to set the tone for understanding the current state. 

    Shannon Full, CEO and President of The Chamber, facilitated the discussion, whereas she asked Dr. Cook and Dr. Flanigan to talk about their respective institutions and how they are feeling about the overall outcomes of the legislative session:  

    “Things are going very well – the legislative session was really positive for all of higher ed. We’re very grateful,” said Cook. “Really grateful for the engagement, the listening, the debates and all the rest. I think pretty much everybody else in higher ed in the state is feeling very appreciative.” 

    The pair also shared with attendees the opportunities that lie ahead for these two different institutions thanks to the session outcomes. “We’re a small institution. Minor tweaks – these little things have a huge impact on us,” Dr. Flanigan explained. “We have tremendous opportunity with the new Career Innovation Center (CIC) that is coming on board soon, with other career academies throughout the state, so I believe that NDSCS is well positioned for the future with all of the things that have happened recently with the legislature and what are happening in the future with all of the career academies. 

    While there are many opportunities for these institutions, Cook and Flanigan both elaborated on some of the challenges that they have and may continue to face regarding enrollment and budgets. 

    “In the state of North Dakota in 2013, they changed the funding model for colleges across the state. My understanding is that we all celebrated it and loved it,” President Cook explained. “The problem, since 2013 at NDSU, is that our enrollment started dropping at that point. The last five or six years it has really taken a more steep decline. That creates a lot of revenue challenges for us.” 

    Flanigan elaborated on the concept, explaining that NDSCS also has had their challenges with enrollment affecting their budget. He discussed the great opportunities at the community college and the proficiency of graduates, stating, “NDSCS is well-positioned to help serve the needs of workforce. We have some phenomenal programs. We hear all of the time from industry – NDSCS grads are well-trained, skilled, they come in and hit the ground running. Our challenge is just getting students.” 

    To close the event, Dr. Cook provided great insight into the efforts NDSU has had to place in connecting education and workforce to support economic development opportunities: 

    “Part of it, for us, is we have academic programs that we’ve been teaching for a long time. It’s taking a step backward, reflecting on what the needs are and working with industry folks – what are the workforce needs, what curriculum is needed, how can we tie that all together? I think that’s a big part of the direction we are going. We’re producing students that are meeting your needs, and I think that has been the future of higher education for some time.” 

    - Dr. David Cook, NDSU president 

    May’s Eggs and Issues event brought together two presidents within the North Dakota University System – Dr. David Cook, who serves at a research university (NDSU) and then Dr. Rod Flanigan, who serves at a community college (NDSCS). While these two schools may differ in many ways, they also have many commonalities. They are producing students who meet the needs of our economy and working class. These students are the future of our workforce, so it is important to support North Dakota’s higher education and understand how vital it is to the success of our communities. 

    In the Fall of 2023 (exact date TBD), our Minnesota higher education presidents will take the stage to discuss a range of essential topics related to the current state of higher education in Minnesota. President Dr. Colin Irvine of Concordia College, President Dr. Carrie Brimhall of M-State and President Dr. Tim Downs of MSUM will discuss essential topics and share insights and outlooks for their institutions. By the time of this event, both President Irvine and President Downs will have begun their first academic year on their respective campuses. 

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