WDAY News First Senor Report Tom Tucker reports on how geology students at NDSU are fighting to save the department. Facing budget cuts, the students say geology studies are critical in a state where coal, oil, and gas production play key roles in the economy.
(Fargo, ND) -- Some geology students at NDSU are pushing back after university administrators announced a proposal to eliminate the department, as part of a plan to help make up for a projected budget shortfall of $7.6 million.
University President Dr. David Cook recently announced he's considering a plan to condense 7 of the academic colleges at NDSU down to 5, and part of that restructuring would include eliminating as many as 24 degree programs including the geology department.
However, at a recent meeting of the geology club on campus, WDAY News First spoke with students, including seniors, who say they were disappointed and surprised by the news that their department could be cut.
School officials say all 27 students in the program would still be provided the classes they need to complete their majors. But the students say maintaining the geology department is critically important to the workforce in North Dakota, a state rich in natural mineral resources, and where oil, coal, and gas production play key roles in the state economy.
"You know we just moved into this brand new beautiful building, it's a $50 million facility, coming from essentially a basement over in Stevens Hall that was pretty dilapidated but we made do with it. So when you get put into a new facility like that, when you operate in a state like North Dakota, which its backbone economy is based off geology, to hear that your department is on the chopping block, it was very confusing and disappointing," said senior Ben Schirrick.
"This state is renowned not just in the U.S. but globally for its energy reserves we have one of the largest coal mines in the world and we have a growing industry of green energy, wind turbines. There's going to be a new rare earth element mine in North Dakota that's going to need geologists soon, and those rare earth elements are used for everything from your cell phone, your car," said senior Emily Jackson.
A campus spokesperson says when deciding which programs to eliminate, administrators are basing their evaluations on criteria including the number of students enrolled in a major, and the cost to the university to offer each program.
NDSU Interim Provost David Bertolini is overseeing the campus-wide re-organization.
He turned down an interview request from WDAY News First to respond to the concerns raised by the students.
The campus spokesperson says the administration first wants to complete their "listening period" before commenting further.
That period for feedback from the campus community on the proposed cuts is set to run through February 15th.