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ND SBHE OKs allocation request, including tuition freeze

GRAND FORKS, N.D. - The State Board of Higher Education is asking the North Dakota Legislature to freeze tuition for two years at all institutions in its 2015-17 budget request, which is significantly higher than its last request.

In doing that, the board is asking the Legislature to fund the $84.8 million base budget request entirely, and the freeze is also contingent on the Legislature covering the cost of increased salaries and benefits for institutions.

"We're asking the Legislature to come forward and help the students with a break," board member Duaine Espegard said.

The $84.8 million will cover the continued cost of operation for various things, including an internal audit and mental health support services for students. It is 12.5 percent higher than the board's request two years ago.

"Sometimes when you see a large budget it's easy to say, 'Boy, they want everything,' but when you look at this budget, I think you're going to understand it was put together with careful thought," Espegard said.

And $49 million of the request is due to the funding model that was put in place during the last legislative session that is tied to credit hour completion.

The budget also includes $13.1 million to fund student affordability items, $14.7 million to fund one-time expenses like more data security and petroleum engineering equipment for the University of North Dakota, $18.5 million in one-time funding for UND's new School of Medicine and Health Sciences and $1.6 million in base funding for the Forest Service and med school rural health program.

The budget passed unanimously through the board and will go before Gov. Jack Dalrymple before being passed on to the Legislature with his recommendations.