- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 12, 2019

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - Republican Gov. Doug Burgum said Tuesday he’s not giving up on the idea of changing North Dakota’s higher education governance structure, even after the GOP-led House killed a bill he supported to do that.

The House soundly defeated the legislation 74-19 to have the state change its higher education governance from one board to two.

Burgum said in a statement that multiple boards would make North Dakota’s 11 colleges and universities be “more accountable to their governing boards and taxpayers.”

The first-term governor has said the board’s 80-year-old governance structure is outdated and needs a change to adequately address issues in the system

Legislative leaders said they are more amenable to expanding the current board that oversees the state’s higher education system. A resolution is expected to be introduced to do that, they said.

Any change to the higher education board would have to be approved by voters because the board’s makeup is enshrined in the state constitution.

Reworking the university system’s management has been one Burgum’s top initiatives. He formed a 15-member task force in 2017 that recommended a three board proposal, but it was later narrowed to two.

The two-board plan has a single board for North Dakota State University and the University of North Dakota. The remaining nine institutions would be governed by another board.

Burgum spokesman Mike Nowatzki said Burgum still prefers the two-board structure.

It’s too late for another bill to be introduced but resolutions may be offered for consideration. Those also must pass both chambers before the proposal would go to voters.

“We continue to work toward approval of a concurrent resolution to put a mission-focused governance model on the statewide ballot in 2020,” Burgum said.

Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner said the multiple board structure that failed in the House likely would not have gained the support in his chamber, either. An expanded board has a better chance, he said.

“We have to do something,” Wardner said. “I think we need to go with the one board, but have it expanded for better oversight.”

The state Board of Higher Education is made up of seven citizen members appointed to four-year terms by the governor and one student appointed by the governor to serve a one-year term.

The board has been long criticized for failing to get costs under control. It currently has a budget of about $625 million. The system also has been a revolving door of chancellors, with four fulltime leaders taking turns in the last dozen years.

There have been a few proposals to change the higher education governance structure in recent years. Voters in 2014 turned down an initiative that would have replaced the board with a three-member commission that reports to the governor.

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