North Dakota’s Bakken oil field has drawn workers to the western part of the state faster than builders have put up houses, leading to reports of drillers sleeping in pickup trucks parked in Walmart lots.
The state’s largest business school is also operating out of cramped quarters.
Enrollment at the University of North Dakota’s College of Business and Public Administration has increased roughly 38 percent since 2000, to about 2,000 undergraduate and graduate students, says spokeswoman Laura Dvorak. That’s the good news. Less good: The business school’s Gamble Hall was built in 1968 to accommodate 1,100 students.
The growing number of students has led the college to undertake space-saving measures. A faculty lounge was converted into classroom space. Because the building lacks a communal area, students have taken to congregating between classes at a handful of tables arranged under a large staircase. The school has spent $3 million to upgrade the facility, equipping some classrooms for online learning. Now the school has maxed out its existing three-story brick structure, Dvorak says: “We’re definitely using every inch of space.”
To allow for further growth, the business school is in the preliminary stages of raising money for a new building. UND, which counts Cargill Chief Executive Officer Greg Page and Buffalo Wild Wings CEO Sally Smith as alumni, also hopes that, in addition to increasing classroom space, a new facility will include technology to improve remote learning programs. About 90 percent of the business college’s students are undergraduates, says Dvorak.
School officials told Prairie Business magazine that the scarcity of business schools in the upper Midwest, as well as an innovative curriculum championed by Dean Dennis Elbert, are responsible for the college’s growth. The state’s booming economy can’t hurt. North Dakota has the nation’s lowest unemployment rate at 2.7 percent, and Bloomberg research shows that the number of businesses based in the state increased 7.4 percent in 2012, the second-fastest rate among U.S. states. Researchers at North Dakota State University expect the state’s population to increase 25 percent, to about 841,000, from 2010 to 2025.
Growth has been fastest in the western part of the state, where one-bedroom apartments can rent for $2,300. The UND business school is located in Grand Forks, near North Dakota’s eastern border. Whatever the reason for the growth, it’s been good for one group of workers: Dvorak says there are currently 102 instructors at the business college, up 28 percent since 2000.