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ND college presidents worried about losing students to South Dakota

Dave Thompson
Prairie Public

An announcement by the South Dakota Board of Regents has some North Dakota colleges and universities worried.

South Dakota has announced that it will charge new students and transfers from North Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana, and Colorado “in-state” tuition rates.  And the North Dakota Board of Higher Education is being asked to do the same for South Dakota students, as well as the other 5 states.

The matter came before the state Board of Higher Education, which met in Bismarck Thursday.

NDSU president Dean Bresciani said the South Dakota action poses an immediate threat to North Dakota college enrollments. He told the Board the colleges are in the "heat" of the enrollment cycle, and the South Dakota announcement was not accidental, in implementing it for the summer.

"In five of those six states, when students are on their way to our state, they drive through South Dakota," Bresciani said. "They pull the car over 3 or 4 hours earlier, and they get to go to a nationally ranked institution for less than the cost of coming to North Dakota. We will lose students."

State College of Science president John Richman told the Board the new generation of students is more deeply focused on affordability.

"Our research tells us they are not going to take on the debt that they saw their brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers take on," Richman said. "They're going to make more of their decisions based on cost. And we're looking for every tool we can to balance that."

The presidents wanted to the Board to take immediate action. And a motion was offered to give the college presidents the authority to set tuition for those six states. But a majority of the Board wasn’t ready to do that.

"I'm a little concerned about approving a proposal that was not fully fleshed out," said Board member Dan Traynor. "It has no parameters, gives carte blanche discretion to university presidents with no report-back guidance. And it affects the taxpayers of North Dakota."

The board’s Budget and Finance Committee will look at the issue at a special meeting, to be scheduled in the next several days, and the full Board will try to meet before Christmas to address the matter.

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