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Board Of Higher Ed Mulls Tuition Changes

Ben Iwen left his hometown of Omaha, Neb., to study landscape architecture at North Dakota State University.

Although he likes being in Fargo, where he has friends and relatives nearby – Iwen, 18, said he would not be here without the tuition break he received as the child of an NDSU alum.

“I came here largely because of that, because otherwise it would have cost way too much,” he said Wednesday.

Tuition rates in the North Dakota University System are dependent on a student’s state of residency. North Dakotans pay $2,604 a year to attend NDSU. Minnesotans pay a little more under a reciprocity agreement.

Those from states included in the Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education – Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming – pay 150 percent.

But students from as close as Iowa and Nebraska pay 267 percent of the resident rate.

“That’s not unique,” said Laura Glatt, the university system’s vice chancellor for administrative affairs. For some states, the rationale is that out-of-state students have not been paying taxes to support the universities; others already have more students than they need.

“We’re the exact opposite as a system of higher education and as a state,” Glatt said, referring to the declining number of high school students in North Dakota.

In response to a report by the Legislative Council Interim Committee on Higher Education, the state Board of Higher Education is looking today at ways to change the system’s tuition policy to attract more out-of-state students and retain more of North Dakota’s students. The board is meeting at Lake Region State College in Devils Lake.

Recruiting nonresidents could have long-term benefits, Glatt said, because some would inevitably remain in the state after graduation and help increase the population – and the tax base.

Tuition and financial aid policies offered for consideration by the NDSU office include:

- Setting all nonresident rates at 150 percent of the resident rate.

- Encouraging individual campuses to develop innovative ways to attract students from a variety of states. Suggestions include permitting nonresidents with at least a B grade-point average to attend at resident rates and permitting residents with a 3.5 grade-point average to attend at reduced rates.

- Supporting loan forgiveness programs that would keep college graduates in North Dakota.

- Requesting the Legislature use tobacco settlement funds or other resources for expanded scholarships and financial aid.

- Setting one tuition rate for all students and discounting it for residents and students in other categories.

Part of the issue with changing the tuition structure is balancing short-term costs with long-term gains.

A program like California recently implemented, enabling any California resident entering one of the state’s public universities with a B grade-point average and financial need to receive free tuition, could help keep students in-state.

If implemented in North Dakota, it would be expensive at the front end, said Kate Haugen, dean for enrollment management at NDSU. But resident students educated in-state might be willing to stay in the long run.

Despite already existing grants and scholarships – like North Dakota’s Scholars Scholarship, which provides full tuition scholarships for top North Dakota students – it is a challenge to keep such students in-state for school.

“There are many times we can’t get 50 students to accept those awards,” Glatt said. “Everybody wants those merit scholars.”

Plus, she said, North Dakota’s offer of free tuition pales in comparison with full rides, including room and board and assistantships, that are offered by schools in other states.

And there is always that allure of leaving home.

“If we can bring in more students – resident or nonresident – it helps us reduce our fixed cost per student, which helps all students,” Glatt said.

Source: Fargo Forum - 11/16/2000