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Amy Dalrymple, Forum News Service, Published January 26 2011

Bills target out-of-state students: Bismarck lawmaker says ND is wrongly subsidizing tuition for nonresidents

Two bills in the North Dakota Legislature take aim at the large number of out-of-state students in the North Dakota University System.

Rep. Mark Dosch, R-Bismarck, said taxpayers shouldn’t be asked to subsidize higher education for students from other states, and he’s sponsoring two bills that seek to fix that.

“A lot of people are becoming very frustrated with the number of out-of-state students that are coming into our system,” Dosch said. “In many cases, these out-of-state students are getting the same tuition rate that our in-state students are.”

Dosch has two proposals to address the issue, and his hope is legislators would adopt one of them.

House Bill 1445 would require colleges and universities to return to the general fund state dollars spent on nonresident students.

House Bill 1444 would require nonresident students to pay a minimum tuition amount covering the average cost of education.

Neither bill is meant to affect students from Minnesota or other states and provinces that are contiguous to North Dakota, Dosch said.

However, Dosch wants to eliminate any tuition discounts for students coming from other countries and states that aren’t adjacent to North Dakota.

Of the system’s 48,120 students enrolled last fall, 20,976 were not from North Dakota, representing nearly 44 percent of the total enrollment.

The percentage is higher for the research universities.

Fifty-six percent of students at North Dakota State University and the University of North Dakota come from outside the state, according to the system’s most recent enrollment report.

Minnesota accounted for 11,752 of the out-of-state students last fall, or about 24 percent of the system’s overall enrollment.

The system had 7,292 students, or about 15 percent, from states and countries not contiguous to North Dakota. Tuition rates vary by campus, but overall out-of-state students do pay higher tuition than North Dakota residents.

NDSU, for example, charges a full-time North Dakota resident $2,819.50 per semester in undergraduate tuition.

That rate is $3,001 for a Minnesota resident; $4,229 for a resident of another contiguous state or a state with a tuition agreement with North Dakota; and $7,527 for all other nonresidents.

However, campuses sometimes offer discounts, called tuition waivers, and charge nonresident students a discounted rate as an incentive to recruit them.

“Unfortunately, with a lot of these students, they come here for the education and they leave,” Dosch said.

According to figures from the North Dakota University System, 42.2 percent of nonresident graduates from 2008 remained in the state one year after graduation, either working or pursuing other degrees.

Dosch said he believes the figure is too high because many of those students end up leaving after completing advanced degrees.

The goal of the bills, Dosch said, is not to reduce the number of nonresident students, but to collect more money from them.

“If we lose a couple students, especially if they’re in a highly subsidized program, well so be it,” he said.

The state Board of Higher Education has not had the opportunity to discuss a position on the bills. The board meets Thursday at Bismarck State College.

In past discussions, the North Dakota University System has advocated the benefits of nonresident students to the state.

Benefits the system cites:

Pat Seaworth, attorney for the state board, said it’s important to note that nonresident students are taxpayers, too. In addition to sales tax, many nonresidents have jobs and pay income taxes and live off campus and pay property taxes, he said.

The number of nonresident students who do stay in North Dakota and contribute to the work force helps offset the number who leave the state, Seaworth said.

“We can’t build a fence around the state to keep residents here, anymore than we can keep the nonresidents out,” he said.

House bills 1444 and 1445 have been referred to the House Education Committee. Hearings have not yet been scheduled.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Amy Dalrymple at (701) 241-5590