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Williston State College on the cusp of important upgrades

Monday, May 20th, 2013
Posted by Williston Wire/Williston Herald

Important state investments are on the way to Williston State College, designed to continue bringing the facilities and experience on the nearly 50-year-old campus up to today's high standards.

"Our campus has to be something meaningful for the student, it should provide a sense of belonging," said Ray Nadolny, president of Williston State College. "Everything should be inviting, on a smaller scale than a large-size university, but a quality experience regardless of size."

The two most recently funded changes will focus on the main entrance to the college and the building at the center of the campus experience, Stevens Hall.

In lieu of the current setup where parking lots dominate the front entrance to campus, the campus drive just off University Avenue will be reconfigured into a circular drive in front of the buildings with a campus quad at the center. This will all be landscaped and made to feel park-like. This project comes at a cost of just under $2 million.

"We want to think big and make things happen," said Nadolny. "This will allow us to create a meaningful difference in the community."

The largest difference that will happen as a result of state funding will take place to Stevens Hall. At just over $11.6 million, the renovation of this critical building will provide a learning environment with an inside and outside look that feels more like a university in North Dakota. Nadolny is grateful the state stepped up to provide the sorely needed funding for improvements. The well-used structure was built by the Williston community, and this marks the first time that the state has invested the dollars needed to upgrade Stevens Hall since it opened more than 40 years ago.

"We're looking forward to having more flexible learning, administration, and student life space within the building," said Nadolny. "The college and its students need to be able to take advantage of this foundational building for decades to come. Having this funding and making these renovations will make that possible."

Williston State College officials expect improvements to the campus drive to start as soon as funds are available and be finished prior to winter of this year. The timeline for renovations at Stevens Hall is longer, as plans call for this larger project to be finished in early 2015.

Tuition, Salaries and Housing

Along with great financial support for these two major projects on campus, President Nadolny has indicated that North Dakota Legislators and the Governor have allowed for additional unprecedented advances for Williston State College, specifically in the areas of tuition and salaries.

Williston State College's tuition of $100.68 per credit hour, the lowest in the state, was set in 2009. Williston State has not raised tuition for five years. As a result of the 2013 legislative session, the college will again be in a position not to raise tuition. While the State Board of Higher Education has approved the college's ability to raise tuition, Williston State will be making a request not to raise tuition. 

And when it comes to attracting the right employees, Nadolny feels positive that he is "in the best position to attract and recruit people." The biggest reasons for this sentiment come from a big boost in what the college is able to pay new and long-time employees and the housing opportunities opening up soon on campus.

When President Nadolny started at Williston State College, four years ago, starting faculty salaries were $28,000. Starting faculty salaries for this coming fall will be $40,000. The college is currently putting together next year's budget and, assuming nothing changes, the average faculty salary will increase from $48,919 in 2012 to $59,858 in 2013. 

To cap off the current surge of excitement and energy, a new 74-unit apartment building will be move-in ready in early August. The housing is a combined effort between various local and state entities that need housing for their essential community services personnel. Thanks to the efforts of the Williston State College Foundation, the North Dakota Housing Finance Agency and many others, rent prices will be kept down in an effort to retain affordable housing.

Maintaining a bright future for the College during a time of great investment in Williston; all part of what Nadolny calls a "phenomenal outcome" for Williston State College.