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Who knew an editorial board meeting would provide a moment of inspiration.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy meeting all the folks who come before us and present their ideas and positions on any number of issues.

Among recent visitors I found Ryan Rauschenberger and Kelly Armstrong to be extremely well informed on the various issues that come to them, or will come before them if elected/re-elected. Both of these gentlemen demonstrate a depth of knowledge and ability to easily move from topic to topic with quick recall of facts and information that is really impressive.

But it was in a meeting with Mark Hagerott, North Dakota University system chancellor that provided me a moment of great inspiration. Hagerott said his staff has come to appreciate this Oren Harari quote, “The electric light did not come from continuous improvement of candles”.

I appreciate the fact that leaders in state government think this way and are not OK with the status quo. Gov. Doug Burgum has inspired this kind of thinking as he attempts to re-invent state government to be more user friendly, more efficient, and leaner.

I was especially encouraged to hear that the leadership of our higher education system thinks this way.

Evidence of that thinking can be found in Bismarck State College taking on an opportunity to provide energy curriculum in Saudi Arabia, a move that will generate a lot of additional revenue to replace reductions in the state budget.

Bismarck State also has been approved to be a poly technical school providing four-year degrees in targeted areas.

Dickinson State is retooling as a dual mission campus adding two-year programs to their traditional four-ear programs.

And all of the North Dakota’s colleges and universities are being encouraged, incentivized even, to develop curriculum in emerging fields.

While the universities and colleges are thinking differently, more creatively, it is incumbent on state legislators to take a look at education funding and perhaps fundamentally change it.

When it comes to funding higher education it’s time for state leaders to, metaphorically speaking, to invent the light bulb rather than only continue improving the candle.

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Gary Adkisson is publisher of the Bismarck Tribune.

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