President Armacost testifies before ND House Appropriations Committee
UND supports needs-based budget backed by Senate, North Dakota University System
UND President Andrew Armacost on Monday made his second appearance before a committee of the North Dakota Legislature, presenting his case for the University’s budget during the 2021-23 biennium.
This time it was the House Appropriations Committee which heard testimony from the North Dakota University System (NDUS) and the 11 institutions of higher education that comprise it. NDUS supports SB2003 as passed by the Senate.
“There’s been great stewardship of federal and state money, and the resources that have been given to the campus to battle through the challenges we’ve faced,” Armacost told members the House committee. “We’re always looking for self-sustained growth.”
Also appearing to present testimony for UND were Student Body President Matthew Ternus; Jed Shivers, Vice President for Finance & Operations; and Karla Mongeon-Stewart, Associate Vice President for Finance.
UND’s Merrifield Twamley project was not included in the NDUS needs-based budget, President Armacost proposed $5 million to start design work for UND’s Merrifield Twamley project. “That really gets us to the design phase and also gets us to a guaranteed maximum price,” Shivers said. “And if the federal government comes through with (funding for) shovel-ready projects, it will enable us to be ready to go because we’ve done the design work.”
Committee members showed particular interest in UND’s research, asking Armacost about areas in which the University was strongest and where it needed additional funding. Energy, medicine and unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) were three areas in which Armacost said the University excelled.
“What I foresee is a continuum of opportunities – which tends to be behind-the-scenes activity – where people are coming up with new technologies and new ideas for products,” he said. “What I envision is a pipeline of research coming out of the universities and then taking advantage of state programs to get those technologies to the marketplace.”
Armacost identified opportunities in space and national security research as two areas in which UND is poised to make significant contributions if funding is available. He noted that in recent months, the University has seen interest from the U.S. Space Force, NASA and the Space Development Agency.
“We can do things using the (Northern Plains) UAS Test Site and the research capabilities of UND to test capabilities that could deploy to space at a later date,” Armacost said. “These would be things like satellite-driven communication systems and computing systems. You would have a network of satellites in the sky that we would test on the ground with the UAS Test Site. This is an exciting opportunity.”
Armacost also briefed legislators on challenges UND faces from the COVID pandemic; successful efforts to improve graduation and retention; trends in education and enrollment; future capital projects; and the need for continued support of the North Dakota Higher Education Challenge Grant, the Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) as State Energy Research Center and state programs supporting the Center for Innovation.