MSU President's Newspaper Column

March 6, 2021

Grateful for the work of our legislators

The work of North Dakota’s 67th Legislative Assembly is well underway. Forty-seven senators and 94 members of the House of Representatives convened in regular session on Jan. 5. We are grateful for our hard-working citizen legislators who invest a great deal of themselves for the benefit of the citizens of our state.

A legislative milestone known as crossover has just been reached. Crossover occurs about halfway through the session. This is the point where bills that have passed the Senate go to the House of Representatives for their consideration, and vice versa.

A couple of Senate bills are of particular interest to higher education. They include Senate Bill 2003, the funding legislation for North Dakota higher education. The Senate has given their approval for the needs-based budget for the 2021-23 biennium that was requested by the North Dakota University System. The budget is just slightly higher than the budget allotment for the 2019-21 biennium.

Vice President for Business Affairs Steve Bensen and I had the privilege of presenting Mayville State’s portion of that request to the Senate Appropriations Committee on Jan. 19. On March 10, we’ll be making our presentation to the House Appropriations - Education & Environment Division. This will be another very important presentation because maintaining funding for a needs-based budget is essential for our university.

In addition to addressing the biennial budget request, we’ll be highlighting the importance of our request for $1.6 million in capital project dollars, which is separate from the biennial budget request. The capital project funding will allow us to install natural gas burners and pave the way for using natural gas as a heating source, replacing old fuel oil burners on our campus. The use of natural gas will provide efficiencies for our institution. In addition, the project will enhance Mayville State’s infrastructure and improve our campus while providing a cleaner footprint for all.

We are proud to have been a key player in helping to bring natural gas to Traill County with our commitment to using the commodity on an ongoing basis. This has been a top economic goal for our region for more than 60 years, according to Jim Murphy, Executive Director of the Traill County Economic Development Commission. With the university’s commitment to purchasing substantial amounts of natural gas, along with agreements from other large customers, Dakota Natural Gas was given the green light to file permit applications with the state. This is a huge win for our area. Now, receiving the $1.6 million to fund the installation of natural gas burners is critical.

A second Senate bill that is of great interest to us and all of higher education in North Dakota is SB 2030 which deals with the Challenge Grant matching funds. This highly successful program funded in past legislative sessions has provided a great boost to the foundations supporting North Dakota University System institutions. In this program, private donations for scholarships and other approved needs of NDUS institutions are matched at a rate of 50%.

In their legislation, the Senate has approved $21.5 million in Challenge Grant funding. A proposed change is to expand eligibility from including only public North Dakota University System institutions and opening it up to Jamestown College and the University of Mary, which are private institutions. As the bill sits now, Mayville State would be eligible to receive $1.5 million in matching funds during the 2021-23 biennium.

We sincerely appreciate the work of the senators who have given their endorsement for this funding. The matching program is a wonderful tool that incentivizes private financial support for public education. Past Challenge Grant funding has been a huge boost to the work of the Mayville State University Foundation.

We are elated because we were able to exhaust all of the $700,000 in Challenge Grant funding allotted to us during the 2019-21 biennium. This means that Mayville State alumni and friends contributed $1.4 million in private dollars that were eligible for Challenge Grant matching of $700,000, for a total of $2.1 million! This is outstanding and life-changing for our foundation, and in turn our university and its students who receive the benefits in the form of scholarship assistance.

We had the honor of hosting our District 20 legislators, Senator Randy Lemm, and Representatives Jared Hagert and Mike Beltz, at a legislative forum held at Mayville State on Saturday, Feb. 27. About 25 people participated in person and via Zoom. All in attendance appreciated the opportunity to hear from and ask questions of our legislators regarding the work they are tackling during the current session.

We sincerely appreciate the efforts of our hard-working and dedicated local legislators and all who play a role in the decision-making legislative processes that are so important to our success.