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Study finds NDSU underfunded

FARGO - North Dakota State University has too few faculty for the number of students and is significantly underfunded, a new study finds.

An independent risk assessment of the North Dakota University System also raises concerns about whether state dollars are being appropriately disbursed to the state's 11 colleges and universities.

In addition, the analysis by a private consultant lists the safety and condition of some NDSU facilities as high-risk areas.

The findings come as no surprise to NDSU President Dean Bresciani, and affirm the arguments NDSU officials have been making for some time.

"Most of the things that the report says need to be changed we're prohibited from addressing because we don't have enough resources," Bresciani said.

The report says NDSU is underfunded in comparison to the size of its enrollment.

NDSU officials responded that they would need to hire 175 professors to get to the desired faculty-student ratio of 1-to-16.

The consultants also raise concerns about environmental health and safety issues, and the capacity to provide electricity to some buildings.

The report lists campus security and emergency preparedness as moderate-risk issues, but Bresciani said he believes NDSU performs well in those areas.

The assessment, by firm LarsonAllen, cost $96,300, including travel costs.

The cost was distributed among the 11 campuses and the university system office, with NDSU and the University of North Dakota each paying about $12,000.

Bill Eggert, director of internal audit and risk assessment for the system, said this is the first risk assessment that's been performed for the university system.

Eggert said it will guide the work he does in the coming years as the only internal auditor for the university system.

During a Wednesday meeting of the Budget, Audit and Finance Committee of the state Board of Higher Education, Chairman Duaine Espegard raised concerns about the size of the internal auditing staff.

Espegard asked for staff to develop an auditing plan for the board to consider.

"There's not enough time in the day for one person to audit 11 campuses and get anything meaningful done," Espegard said.

Some of the high-risk areas for the university system identified by the assessment include:

Several campuses are behind in technology used to deliver online classes.

The system does not consistently act as a unified higher education system and some institutions are reluctant to collaborate.

Effectiveness and efficiency could be improved if campuses were more consistent and collaborated more on academic and administrative functions.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Amy Dalrymple at (701) 241-5590