One hundred years ago the North Dakota Legislature voted to approve the establishment of a teachers college in Dickinson. They did not, however, allocate funding for this endeavor. Then President Samuel T. May looked to the citizens of the region, those who dreamed alongside him, for assistance to make this dream a reality. Local citizens pledged $50 a year for two years and thus the College on the Hill became was brought into existence. In the summer of 1918, more than one hundred students arrived at the Dickinson campus, ready to be trained as teachers to meet a regional need for educators.
Today, Dickinson State University faces a serious challenge due to a drastic reduction in financial support for the institution at the state level being proposed. The executive budget presented to the legislature paints a harsh reality for the university which serves the western half of the North Dakota. The state has faced challenges with reduced revenues for the past two years and understandably, adjustments must be made. All state agencies face this allocation, yet due to extraordinary circumstances, the proposed change to DSU’s budget, if enacted, will cut deeply into academic programs, athletic programs and student services.
The DSU community has been thorough and thoughtful in our review of what the proposed budget will mean for our university and for the region we serve. We have shared these concerns with our local legislators, and with legislators across the state. Our local citizens have raised a collective voice of support to share with legislators the value DSU brings, and they have rallied together to ask for legislative support in ensuring access to higher education in western North Dakota continues into the future.
I am realistic about the challenges we face. I am also optimistic about our future. This is a tough biennium for Dickinson State. There are many unknown factors as we go through the next few months of the legislative session. While there are many unknowns, there are also many things of which we can be confident.
We can be confident that DSU continues to meet a need for the region by providing access to high quality educational experiences. In a survey of our students, 82 percent of recent DSU graduates indicate they are living and working in North Dakota. Dickinson State is training the workforce and leaders who will shape our local communities in the future. I hear stories of the lives impacted by education obtained at DSU. Schools filled with teachers who were prepared in our classrooms, nurses caring for patients, business professionals who lead and innovate in their fields. Nearly each person I meet has a DSU connection and these connections enrich our communities.
In the next few months, you will hear conversations about possible areas of reduction at DSU to account for potential changes in appropriated funding. You will also hear about new initiatives, partnerships, and collaborations we are exploring as we continue to partner with our community. It is important that we not lose the momentum we have gained these past few years. DSU will keep planning, innovating, and moving toward our bright future.
There are many questions about what may or may not happen. I encourage all of us to focus not on what we do not know, but rather on what we do know. Dickinson State is western North Dakota’s university. It is a robust institution with a rich heritage and deep roots. I am confident we will come through this time and that we will carry forward in a very strong fashion.
Tom Mitzel, President