College Guide

Blog

January 10, 2013 10:00 AM North Dakota’s Education Boom

By Daniel Luzer

Oil

Here’s an interesting exception to general trends in higher education.

It turns out that North Dakota’s state colleges will be getting more money from the state next year, a lot more money. According to an article by Kevin Kiley at Inside Higher Ed:

North Dakota, unlike almost every other state, is poised to make an unprecedented spending increase in its higher education system. The state’s governor has proposed a 14 percent increase — about $90 million — in the 11-campus system’s operating budget for the next biennium, as well as an additional $177 million in one-time capital expenditures. Politicians and education leaders hope an infusion of cash will help transform the system - which has struggled with inconsistent direction and leadership - into one of the country’s best.

Now everyone’s rich!

Almost everywhere else in America state legislatures are still cutting funding for higher education. There’s been a 25 percent drop in per-pupil funding in the last five years.

Why’s North Dakota doing so well? Well for starters it’s because the state suffered no downturn due to the 2008 recession (there was never a North Dakota housing boom, so the state was not exactly over dependent on property taxes, like in Florida or California). In addition, oil and natural gas developments in the western part of the state have generated huge budget surpluses. Finally, the state has only 700,000 people (the entire state has fewer residents than Columbus, Ohio) so there’s a lot of money to go around.

What do colleges get to do with all of this money? It’s a little early to know, but there’s a plan in place to increase college employees’ salaries 4 percent, increase funding for scholarships, an expansion of the School of Medicine and Health Sciences at the University of North Dakota, and $29 million for a new science building at North Dakota State University. They’re not, however, planning to cut tuition.

But then, they may not need too. Tuition at North Dakota State is already only $5,000 a year. That’s more than $3,000 below average. [Image via]

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer