Burgum to chair higher-ed governance task force

Nov 8, 2017

Gov. Burgum, surrounded by state officials, legislators, Board of Higher Education members, and student and faculty representatives announcing the governance task force at the state Capitol's Memorial Hall.
Credit Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

Gov. Doug Burgum is creating a Higher Education Governance Task Force.

Burgum said the task force will be looking at the ways the University System is managed – and see if there are changes that need to be made to bring the system – as he put it – into the 21st century.

Burgum said the current Board of Higher Education dates back to the 1930s.

"We've had a similar model in place for 80 years," Burgum told a Capitol news conference. "Now might be a good time for us to take a look to see if that model could be updated."

"Twenty-two states use that same governance model that we do," said Rep. Mark Sanford (R-Grand Forks), the chairman of the Interim Higher Education committee. "That's probably a good reason for us to look at what we're doing."

Sanford said the growth in online student numbers is helping to drive this discussion, as is the cost of higher-ed.

"We have limited resources," Sanford said. "The current higher-ed funding model is probably unsustainable."

Sanford said that means higher-ed has to take a look at all the things it's doing.

"It all begins with governance," Sanford said. "Governance takes care of allocations. Governance takes care of direction."

Burgum said the University System needs be "nimble" – to more quickly react to the changes in the workforce and the new demands placed on students.

University System Chancellor Mark Hagerott said the state Board of Higher Education has already created its own committee on governance – and that dovetails nicely with what the Governor has proposed.

"Now we're talking about information quickly spreading across the world," Hagerott said. "Big data, artificial intelligence, new opportunities for our economy. And it's all about learning, workforce and research. It's a good time to ask some broader questions."

"If you're good, why not be better," said Board of Higher Education chairman Don Morton. "If you're better, why not be the best?"

Faculty and students will also be represented on that task force.

"Having students' voices there is key," said Board of Higher Education student member Kaleb Dschaak, a student at the University of North Dakota. "The system is all about providing for students, and giving students a good learning experience."

The task force will have 15 members. Burgum will chair it. It will meet monthly. Burgum is now looking for task force members, and he's inviting people to apply via his office Website.