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Bills would hike tuition, cap enrollment for students not from North Dakota
FARGO -- Out-of-state students attending public universities in North Dakota would see a hike in their tuition rates and find getting accepted more difficult under proposals being considered in the Legislature.
A pair of bills would increase the minimum tuition levels for resident students and set a cap on the number of out-of-state students who could attend North Dakota’s 11 public colleges and universities.
House Bill 1264 would revise tuition reciprocity agreements with other states by imposing a minimum rate of 125 percent for nonresident students based on benchmarks from eligible states under the Midwestern Higher Education Compact or the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education.
A lower minimum, 115 percent, would apply to students from Minnesota. But a much higher tuition rate -- 200 percent -- would apply to nonresident students from other states.
Nonresident students accepted at any of the state’s campuses before July 1, 2018, would be exempt from the higher reciprocity tuition rates as long as they maintain their full-time status.
A companion measure, House Bill 1265 would impose caps, in the form of a ratio, on the number of new nonresident students that could be admitted under reciprocity agreements.
The caps would escalate, beginning in the 2018-19 academic year, when nonresident students cannot exceed 250 percent of the number of resident students admitted in the previous academic year. By 2025-26 and thereafter, the maximum number of nonresident students cannot exceed 150 percent of resident students.
“It’s non-trivial at the beginning and it gets pretty significant quickly,” Chancellor Mark Hagerott of the North Dakota University System said Thursday. “As it’s phased in over time, it will be a fairly significant impact.”
Hagerott’s office is still working on the fiscal impact of severely curtailing out-of-state students, but the chancellor said a preliminary analysis makes it clear the effects would be significant.
The proposals to restrict nonresident students will be harmful, especially for North Dakota State University and the University of North Dakota, both located along the Minnesota border, he said.
For instance, Minnesota students help provide the critical mass of students to enable the flagship universities to offer specialized courses and majors, such as bioengineering, a new offering that is a collaborative effort between NDSU and UND.
But Hagerott and UND President Mark Kennedy said they support the policy of charging nonresident students higher tuition and ensuring that North Dakota taxpayers benefit from tuition reciprocity agreements.
“Our first priority is North Dakota kids,” Hagerott said. “But the sad reality is we can only offer certain courses because there are enough Minnesota kids.”
State Board of Higher Education policy already requires North Dakota public campuses to charge nonresidents more, Kennedy said.
“We are for charging out-of-state students more,” he said. “It’s a legitimate question to look at reciprocity and say, ‘Is that beneficial to the state?’ ”
Universities are economic engines for the state, and restricting nonresident students would be “cutting at the core” of their mission, Kennedy said.
“I would just argue with the concept,” he added. “I believe there is no better way to energize economic vibrancy in a state like North Dakota than to build great universities.” Universities provide an educated, well-trained workforce, and bringing in nonresident students helps to do that, Kennedy said.
“Not all of those stay, but those that do stay add significantly to the state’s economy,” he said. UND’s aerospace program, for example, trains pilots from across the country and abroad.
The aerospace program has been cited as a crucial asset by the Grand Forks Air Force Base, and by aviation and aerospace companies that are located near the base to work on unmanned aerial vehicle research and development, he said.
Without students from Minnesota and elsewhere, programs including aerospace would be significantly reduced or jeopardized, Kennedy said.
The North Dakota University System has 20,852 nonresident students, or 44.1 percent of the enrollment at the 11 campuses.
At UND, where 14,648 students are enrolled, 5,086, are from North Dakota, 4,934, are from Minnesota and 4,628 are from elsewhere. At NDSU, with an enrollment of 14,432, 5,960 are from North Dakota, 6,543 are from Minnesota, 839 are from other states, 851 are international students, and 239 are permanent residents.
NDSU’s base tuition is $6,924 for North Dakota residents, $7,755 for Minnesota residents, $10,386 for students from states in a tuition exchange and $18,488 for nonresidents.
Rep. Rick Becker, R-Bismarck, the prime sponsor of both bills, was unavailable for comment Thursday. A spokeswoman for NDSU said the university would defer to Hagerott for comment on the bills, which had their first committee hearing Tuesday, but have not been acted upon.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Patrick Springer at (701) 241-5522