Measure would remove names and locations of North Dakota's public colleges from the Constitution

Jan 10, 2019

A Bismarck Legislator is the main sponsor of a proposal to take the names and locations of North Dakota’s state colleges and universities out of the state Constitution.

Rep. Rick Becker (R-Bismarck) said things are changing in higher education. But he said the state is "hamstrung” by the Constitution.

Because of the Constitutional provision, lawmakers can't close any colleges without a voter-approved change in the Constitution.

"We're anticipating significantly lower enrollment over at least the next 10 years," Becker said. "We also rely on a huge number of students from Minnesota, yet Minnesota's enrollment is declining significantly as well."

Becker said technology is changing higher education as well.

"They're going to require significant adaptations," Becker said.

This idea has been floated a few times in the past. Since it is a change in the state's Constitution, it will take a vote of the people.

The proposal last passed the Legislature in 1997. But in 1998, voters again rejected it.

"That's over 20 years ago," Becker said. "Things have changed. And I think it would be right and proper to have the chance to vote on it again."

Opponents of similar measures in the past have argued that the colleges, especially in some of the smaller cities, are centers of economic development.