Dec 13th, 2004 @ 3:45 pm | Author:
Chances are, you have enjoyed at least one holiday musical performance this season by people from Valley City State University. For another spectacular opportunity, be at the Barnes County Courthouse Tuesday, December 14 at 7:30 p.m. Once again, the music department will be part of the festivities.

The quality of these many recitals, concerts, and performances is exceptional by any standard. It is downright astonishing when you realize how much time it takes to prepare for each one and, relatively speaking, how few people are involved in most of them. My wish for all the performers is that they gain as much joy and restoration from their holiday as they bring to ours.

North Dakotans are known for producing a great deal of impact with very few resources, and nowhere is this truer than at Valley City State. There is a base, though, for how much it takes to have a quality university, and the more resources we have, the more impact we can have. That is why we have been changing our approach.

Once, state general funds and tuition revenues were adequate to sustain public universities. That is no longer the case. In the 1980s, higher education received 24 percent of the state budget. During the 1990s, the share fell to 21 percent. The budget proposed for the 2005 legislative session lowers the share to 19 percent. This year, the state provides only 42 percent of the total budget at Valley City State.

Meanwhile, tuition has gone up 86 percent in the last eight years. The total student budget for a year (tuition, fees, books, room, board, and limited personal budget) is over $12,000 – a freshman’s college education will cost about $50,000, if we are able to keep tuition increases in check. Previously, we were a low-tuition state. We are now a moderate-tuition state with very limited state-funded scholarships.

The larger a university and its community, the more resources it has to draw upon. More local businesses, more alumni, more sports fans, and larger audiences translate to more funds. VCSU has an important strategic weapon, though – resourcefulness.

A few weeks ago, I listed 13 key achievements in 2004, all of them gained with no additional state funds. For example:

Partnerships brought Eagle Creek Software to town, will launch the new VCSU Business Institute, and won a $1.9 million undergraduate research grant.

Grants, partners, and university reallocation launched our national-stature technology education program.

Privately funded scholarships of $276,000 helped with a significant enrollment increase. Private gifts paid the extra cost for our football team to play in California.

Sweat equity and savvy choices brought new programs, top student satisfaction ratings, and our 7th Top College title from US News.

Student funds renovated Kolstoe Hall and paid for faculty and staff salary increases last year. Internal reallocation paid for three positions in athletics and marketing.

We will continue to leverage all these resources for the future. And we are asking for your help. Private gifts take a university from žgoodÓ to "great." And that’s where this university and its region are headed.