News from the Senate: Legislative Report

The conversation concerning the High Education governance structure continued this week in the Senate. 

This all started with the Governor’s Task Force for Higher Education Governances with the idea of studying other types of governances and to suggest improvements for the people’s consideration in the 2020 general election. 

Our current structure is our state’s constitution and change would need approval by the vote of the people. 

The task force consisted of 15 members and meet ten times during 2018 and did suggest a change for the 66 legislative session to consider. 

Looking at what other states do, they found that 9 states have a single system like ours, 13 states have multiple higher education governance systems, 11 state have a separate governing board for each of their senior institutions and the rest have a combination of the structures.   

What the HB 1500 suggested as the change in higher education governance was to go to a 2-board system with one board for NDSU and UND with a 12 member board and one board for the rest of our universities that would have 10 board members.

This change of structure will drive greater numbers of qualified candidates to apply to serve on thesetwo mission-focused boards and will allow these boards to hold their presidents directly accountableto the needs of the state.Members can dive deeper into the workings of each institution and use data and metrics to holdinstitutional leadership accountable to taxpayers.

HB 1500 also allowed for some board members to be from outside the state of North Dakota and allowed for more student membership on the boards. 

This idea was not accepted very well in the House and was defeated by a 17-74 vote. 

Senate Majority Leader, Rich Wardner thought that more work was needed on this and introduced SCR 4016 to increase the one board that we have to 11 members. 

In the Senate Education committee, the reoccurring issue seemed to be the biggest problem of our current structure.

The task of being a board member on the State Board of Higher Education is so demanding and they simply do not have the expertise or time to cover the spectrum of campus missions and offerings.

What SCR 4016 does is increase the board membership to 15 members with the idea that the board would be large enough to divide into sub-committee that could do the deep dive into demanding needs of our diverse university system. 

The other idea that appealed to the Senate Education Committee that even though a subcommittee could specialize or focus on a certain type of University the work still needed to come back to a full board.

Have the full board approve changes or recommendation protects the idea that our board is there to keep the interests of our students and the state as a whole in there best interest and not that of one university, city or area.

This conversation is long from over and 4016 is still rather vague, but if this concept finds favor with House, the details can be worked out in conference committee and then forward it on to the people for a vote in the 2020 general election. 

As always we appreciate your comments and suggestions.

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