Armacost: Legislative session impact on UND mostly positive

The recently concluded session of the North Dakota Legislature will have a positive impact on funding for the University of North Dakota during the 2021-23 biennium, according to UND President Andrew Armacost.

Although there are still questions to be answered about how some of the new laws passed will impact activities and scholarship on campus, Armacost said the University fared well in terms of funding under the needs-based budget the North Dakota University System submitted to legislators.

Andrew Armacost

“Our Grand Forks legislators provided tremendous support to the campus by recognizing a wide array of funding opportunities that will allow us to continue delivering high-quality academic programs to our students,” Armacost said. “This will enable us to fulfill our mission of educating leaders for North Dakota.

“I appreciated the chance to speak with legislators from across the state, who deserve credit for listening to our ideas and enabling excellence on our campus and across the North Dakota University System,” he added.

During the next biennium, UND will receive nearly $151 million in state appropriations and the University’s School of Medicine & Health Sciences (SMHS) will receive $68.1 million. This funding includes an additional $3 million as a result of a change in the higher education funding formula and a portion of faculty and staff merit increases of 1.5 percent in the first year of the biennium (minimum of $100 per month per employee) and 2 percent in the second year.

Armacost highlighted additional funding for new key UND initiatives in the next biennium, such as $4 million to work with the U.S. Space Command on technology and workforce development; $1 million for forensic examiners; and $5 million to reconstruct the flight apron at the Grand Forks Airport that supports UND’s aviation programs.

In addition, UND’s Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) has been directed to conduct a salt cavern storage study and a hydrogen roadmap study for North Dakota with $10 million in appropriations through the North Dakota Industrial Commission. EERC researchers will also have the opportunity to pursue millions of dollars of energy research with the continued designation as the State Energy Research Center (SERC) and a funding line of $5 million per biennium. Created by the legislature two years ago, SERC’s sunset clause was extended through 2027.

As part of North Dakota University System programs, UND will benefit from research funding that draws from earnings on the state’s Legacy Fund and a $1.36 million appropriation to sustain the state’s nursing consortium.

“We are pleased that the North Dakota Legislature took action on providing dollars for these initiatives that will be crucial to helping our state’s economy rebound from the COVID pandemic,” Armacost said.

Armacost noted a key change in funding for Challenge Grants in which the state matches every $2 in private funding raised for student scholarships with a $1 match. The medical school will now receive $1.5 million in Challenge Grant funds, in addition to $1.7 million for UND students and $250,000 for students in the School of Law.

“Each legislative session yields changes to the law and changes that impact our campus,” Armacost said. “This session, many eyes were on Bill 2030, the Challenge Grant bill that includes restrictions on partnerships with abortion providers, and Bill 1503, which addresses campus free speech. We will work closely with our state partners and the Attorney General’s office to determine the impact of this legislation on our campus.”

Already looking to the next legislative cycle, Armacost said two projects UND will continue to pursue are $2.2 million in funding for high-performance computing and a $56 million project to renovate Merrifield and Twamley halls on the UND campus.

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