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Amy Dalrymple, Forum News Service, Published November 05 2010

NDSU, UND join forces to offer degree

GRAND FORKS – A collaboration between North Dakota State University and the University of North Dakota to offer a master of public health degree is a sign of things to come, officials said Thursday.

The two research universities received unanimous approval Thursday from the state Board of Higher Education to offer a graduate program in public health.

The next step is to request about $1.2 million in state funding from the Legislature.

By working together, the universities can save costs and create a program that is unique nationally, said Joshua Wynne, dean of the UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences.

“We know of no program that will offer the range of experiences that we are proposing,” Wynne said. “That’s only possible by combining the strengths of the institutions.”

NDSU President Dean Bresciani said this is the first time the two schools have collaborated like this to respond to a state need, which is what legislators and residents expect.

“Assuming the state Legislature’s support, this is just the beginning of what our two flagship universities can do for North Dakota,” Bresciani said.

NDSU Provost Craig Schnell said this type of collaboration would not have happened five years ago because the presidents didn’t work together. The two campuses also are in initial discussions for a biomedical engineering program, he said.

“This is a new day,” Schnell said.

The public health work force has severe shortages and will have more in the future, according to the American Public Health Association.

The number of public health workers in the U.S. declined from 200 workers per 100,000 people in 1980 to 158 workers per 100,000 people in 2000. Retirements are expected to reduce that number even further.

North Dakota does not currently have a master of public health degree available.

Faculty from the two universities will work together to teach the core classes, and each campus will offer some specialization courses. Many classes will be offered online, but some travel between the two campuses will be required.

The proposed tuition is $600 per credit, or $25,800 for the entire program, which officials said is competitive yet enough to help the universities cover expenses.

If the Legislature doesn’t fully fund the $1.2 million request, the campuses may have to implement fewer specializations and phase in the rest.

However, Bresciani said he anticipates that legislators will be supportive of this program.

Terry Dwelle, state medical officer, said the program is needed in North Dakota and he’s pleased it’s moving forward.

“We have great interest in this,” Dwelle said. “It’s an incredible step forward for education in North Dakota and public health potential in North Dakota.”

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