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ND public colleges and universities still concerned about a new Minnesota tuition program

UND President Andrew Armacost
Shawna Noel Schill
UND President Andrew Armacost

North Dakota public colleges and universities are watching – with concern – the roll-out of Minnesota’s free tuition program.

The Minnesota legislature passed what is called “The North Star Promise” – a scholarship program to cover tuition and fees for a Minnesota resident student that comes from a family with income below $80,000. That is a concern for some North Dakota colleges that have a significant number of Minnesota students.

"We don't know what's going to happen with Minnesota Promise," North Dakota State University President David Cook told the Legislature's Budget Section. "We can all project, and forecast, but it's tough on us."

Cook said NDSU has come up with what he called a “band aid” type of assistance program, funded by alumni donations, for the next two years. He told the Budget Section the money has been allocated to existing freshmen at NDSU – from North Dakota and Minnesota – who will be at NDSU next fall – as well as incoming North Dakota and Minnesota students who meet the North Star criteria.

"This is going to be here for two years — short-term, one-time band aid approach, I guess strategic," Cook said. "But it's not going to save the day, long term. However, we are nervous about this, and we're trying to do everything we can."

Meanwhile, University of North Dakota President Andrew Armacost told the Legislators his university has opted not to launch its own program.

"If we were to offer a program like the 'Promise' program, our data analytics indicate that it would have a small probability of impacting enrollment," Armacost said. "We don't feel that, given the small increase in enrollment, it would off-set the massive cost of such a program to the University."

Armacost also said he believes that these localized, institution-specific promise programs may have the effect of increasing what he called the "already intense competition among the NDUS schools."

"We didn't want to enter that fray, and catalyze any negative reaction from our partners across the system," Armacost said.

The 2023 Legislature did pass a “tuition freeze” for the colleges.

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