The roots of Valley City State University extend all the way back to North Dakota’s first year as a state, when the school, and one in Mayville, were constitutionally established as teachers’ colleges, which were called normal schools. The normal school in Valley City first operated out of the high school, but it quickly needed more space and moved into commercial buildings.
On this date in 1892, the Valley City State Normal School opened for its third year, and its first new building, Main, opened that December. Main is now known as McFarland Hall. One hundred and forty-three students attended that academic year. The following year, the number jumped dramatically, reaching 255.
However, North Dakota’s normal schools almost closed in those early years. In 1895, Governor Roger Allin vetoed 80% of the funding, leading Valley City residents and school boosters to raise and donate almost twice the Legislature’s appropriation. The school stayed open, and Governor Allin lost his party’s nomination for a second term. His unpopular decision had been an attempt to curtail budget woes amid bad crops and low commodity prices.
Valley City students attended the normal school for one or two years. They practiced K-12 teaching at the on-campus model school. The school’s second structure, the Science Building, was erected in 1903. It’s still there, now called McFarland West.
The school went through a variety of name changes, from Valley City State Teachers College to Valley City State College to the current name of Valley City State University. It is one of 11 institutions in the North Dakota University System. It hit a record spring enrollment this year at 1,517 students.
Dakota Datebook by Jack Dura
State of North Dakota. (1894). Annual and biennial reports of various public officers and institutions to the governor and legislative assembly for the fiscal period ending June 30, 1894. The Alert, State Printers and Binder: Jamestown, ND