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Published September 16 2013

Forum editorial: The Bison Caucus fills a need

The Bison Caucus, which was the subject of a story in Sunday’s Forum, is the kind of organization that dovetails with efforts to develop productive relationships among North Dakota universities and colleges and the private sector. The caucus is made up of several heavy-hitters in the state’s thriving business and professional communities. Those people understand, probably better than most North Dakotans, that a responsive, 21st-century higher education system is vital to the state’s future.

The men and women who create jobs value a highly educated workforce. The university system is among the most important engines of economic development, not only because of the research underway at North Dakota State University and the University of North Dakota, but also because the state’s businesses and professions need educated employees. The best places to find them are on the 11 campuses of the system.

The Bison Caucus focuses on NDSU, but its impact is wider. When the goal is adequate funding for NDSU, the effect is to spread the state’s newfound wealth to every campus. And every school, no matter how small, has an important role in the overall higher ed responsibility to prepare students for a dynamic world of work. For example:

• The North Dakota State College of Science at Wahpeton announced last week an expanded partnership with John Deere and RDO Equipment Co. to train students on state-of-the-art agriculture and forestry machinery. It’s one of the best programs in the nation.

• Lake Region State College at Devils Lake partners with industry in its wind turbine technician training discipline. A few years ago the school saw a need and moved smartly to fill it.

• Bismarck State College has one of the nation’s best programs for preparing students to go to work in the electricity generation industry, including at the massive power plants in central North Dakota.

Similar programs at four-year schools, like NDSU, also fit a new effort by the campuses and the North Dakota Chamber to ramp up programs that will in the future meet the changing nature of the state’s workforce – from the Oil Patch to Red River Valley agribusiness.

By necessity, the Bison Caucus and similar organizations will and must advocate for their individual schools at the Legislature. More enlightened lawmakers are working with the caucus to ensure adequate funding, less micromanagement and more productive relationships with the businesses that hire university and college graduates.

Some lawmakers might not like the clout the Bison Caucus can bring to the game. But some lawmakers will never fully understand that unfettered and well-funded higher education is vital to the state’s economic future.


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Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.