The 2019 Legislature will likely consider creating a “skilled workforce scholarship program.”
It would be similar to the “Build Dakota” program created in South Dakota.
A bill draft presented to the Legislature’s interim Taxation Committee would create a scholarship fund of $20 million – half of which would be provided by the state-owned Bank of North Dakota, and the other half by private industry. That money would create an endowment fund. It would provide full-ride scholarships to students who enter studies related to critical need careers. The scholarships would be aimed at two-year programs. And students who take advantage of the program have to agree to stay in North Dakota for a period of time.
The Economic Development Association of North Dakota is pushing the idea.
"The shortage of the workforce in North Dakota is one of our biggest limitations," said Association president Ellen Huber. "It's a nationwide shortage -- not unique to North Dakota. We're competing for talent with every state in the nation."
Huber said studies have shown in other states that the majority of students who enroll in these kinds of programs stay in state after graduation. She said this will provide opportunity for students who can’t afford to go to college without incurring student loan debt.
Some Legislators have said they would prefer a “loan forgiveness” program, rather than giving the money up-front.
"I hope that we have some sort of program, whether it's loan-forgiveness or scholarship, some sort of assistance that helps more young people have the opportunity to get an advanced education and earn higher wages," Huber said. "It needs to keep people in our state."