By Matthew Liedke
North Dakota State College of Science has its eyes set on expansion of its Fargo campus and is turning to the state legislature to get the ball rolling.
An expansion, estimated at $65 million, is being requested for approval from the North Dakota Board of Higher Education by NDSCS, which is the beginning of the process, according to school President John Richman.
“The Board will go through their budget process and will recommend a list of capital projects to the governor for him to consider in his proposal,” Richman said. “That proposal will then go to the North Dakota Legislature in 2015.”
Currently, NDSCS has a campus in Fargo that started 18 years ago. Originally created for workforce training with no credits available, the location now offers credit programming due to workforce demands.
In the fall semester of 2013, the Fargo location had an enrollment of 300 students. In the coming years, the facility could see enrollment growth of 1,100-1,500, bringing enrollment up to 1,400-2,000 students, Richman said.
“This fall, our class schedule goes from 7 a.m.-10 p.m., that’s pretty well at capacity,” he said. “As it grows, and we are at capacity, the question is raised about fulfilling our mission, which is to educate and train the workforce of North Dakota.”
Recent statistics analyzed by NDSCS officials showed that kindergarten classes in Fargo and West Fargo are averaging 500 students in each of the next five years.
“That is a lot of future graduates,” Richman said.
On top of the high school graduates, Richman also noted that current students who desire a two-year program are not always willing to continue their education in Wahpeton following a year or semester at the Fargo campus.
“We have asked students before at the end of the one-year welding program if they would take a second year of it, and the majority said yes. However, asked if they would travel to Wahpeton for a second year, they said no,” Richman explained. “There are students who simply can’t or won’t commute to Wahpeton.”
An information packet on the project from NDSCS showed the $65 million estimated price includes the following costs:
The new NDSCS facility on the Fargo campus requires 210,000 square feet of space to accommodate both enrollment and educational programming.
The facility would require space for:
Additionally, the new location is expected to provide space for:
Despite being a large project in a different location in Fargo, Richman stated that NDSCS’ home remains in the city of Wahpeton.
“We want the local community to know that we aren’t moving and have no intention of moving,” Richman said. “We are not looking to be a bigger campus, we are not looking to move campus, we are looking to continue fulfilling our mission.”
Richman also made clear that the new location is not to compete with North Dakota State University.
“We won’t be in competition for students at NDSU. (NDSU) President Dean Bresciani and I will sign a memorandum of agreement soon that supports this project as well as other collaborative projects between both institutions,” Richman said. “He understands the type of student who wants the campus life isn’t the same as the student who will be going to our Fargo location.”
The project is in the very early phases, though, and Richman added that there are other projects the school is looking to complete ahead of the Fargo location expansion.
“This may not make the board’s list this year and it’s not even our first priority,” Richman explained. “We have an infrastructure project dealing with a water, sewer and storm line in Wahpeton. We asked for that first and the Fargo one second.”
The water line project is expected to cost around $13 million and will be a large undertaking.
Because of this, Richman said NDSCS will look at the Fargo expansion in terms of phases.
“This package can be done through phases. They may give us the money for the land in one session and the building in the next session. So we plan to build this in phases,” he said.
When the project eventually reaches completion, Richman said that despite needing faculty, the new location wouldn’t need any more administration.
“Accreditation-wise and in terms of efficiency, we wouldn’t require another president, so the administration will stay in Wahpeton,” Richman said.
“That current location currently has a Dean of Extended Learning,” Richman added. “And as enrollment grows, we will add faculty for student support and student services.”
District 25 legislators have been notified about the project and Richman said he would meet with those who are newly elected after the November elections. Richman noted that he also met with Fargo legislators and the consensus from them was to “put it in the process.”
“These sometimes take multiple sessions and I’m optimistic we could get something,” Richman said. “We see this as being nothing more than another building, it just happens to be a little bit further north. I believe this will benefit the whole state of North Dakota.”
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