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Erik Burgess, Published December 11 2012

Dalrymple’s budget plan includes state match for university donations

FARGO – The governor’s billion-dollar budget package for the next two years in North Dakota comes wrapped with a special incentive for the state’s universities and colleges.

In the $12.8 billion budget proposal that Gov. Jack Dalrymple unveiled on Dec. 5, $30 million has been set aside for what the governor calls an “Education Challenge,” where the state would match major private donations, giving $1 of state money for every $2 raised.

“The one-for-two incentive is really a proven strategy for philanthropy around the country,” Dalrymple told The Forum’s Editorial Board last week. “We think this is something that we should try.”

In the plan, $10 million would be set aside for North Dakota State University, $10 million for the University of North Dakota, and the final $10 million would be reserved for the remaining universities and colleges across the state.

University fundraisers understand it’s not just free money, said Jim Miller, president and CEO of NDSU Development Foundation, a private nonprofit that solicits and manages donations to NDSU.

Miller said the promise of state-backed dollars should encourage more giving.

“It’s an incentive for people to step up to the plate because they know there is a partnership now between private contributions and the state of North Dakota,” Miller said.

Miller said many states across the nation have state-match programs that have been very successful.

“I think it’s wonderful,” he said. “We’ve talked about similar programs for several years, and this is the first time something like this has actually made it into the governor’s budget.”

The proposal comes with a few caveats, according to Dalrymple’s office: The money has to go toward an academic project, and the state money can only be applied to “significant” donations. The threshold for what is considered significant hasn’t been set.

“This is a motivator, and it’s not only just the $2 you get. You attract attention to the project,” Dalrymple said.

The governor’s overall proposal will guide legislators through the budget drafting process in the next session that begins Jan. 8.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Erik Burgess at (701) 241-5518