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Jennifer Johnson, Forum News Service, Published April 04 2013

Area college costs do well on Department of Education ‘scorecard’

GRAND FORKS - The cost of attending colleges and universities in eastern North Dakota and northwest Minnesota are still mostly on the low end compared to similar institutions nationwide, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s new online “college scorecard.”

Graduation rates, meanwhile, put regional institutions mostly in the middle of the pack nationally.

North Dakota University System Chancellor Hamid Shirvani, who has expressed concern with costs and graduation rates, said he thinks North Dakota institutions can do better.

The college scorecard is available through the White House website and helps students find colleges based on affordability, location, future occupation and other factors.

The site also allows students to see how a university compares to institutions nationwide that offer the same education level. For example, the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks primarily offers bachelor’s degrees, and it was compared with others that do the same.

Better bang

Among four-year institutions around the nation, UND, North Dakota State University, Valley City State University and Minnesota State University Moorhead are all considered low-cost universities with medium graduation rates.

It cost a North Dakota State University student an average of $13,284 a year in 2010-11, including tuition and room and board. Of students who began in the fall of 2005, 53.7 percent graduated within six years with a bachelor’s degree.

The annual cost at MSUM was $11,684, while the six-year graduation rate was 44.7 percent.

For UND, the annual cost was $11,952, and the graduation rate was 54.3 percent.

At VCSU, the annual cost was $9,947, and the graduation rate was 42.1 percent.

Some four-year institutions in the three-state region boast better graduation rates.

Concordia College – a medium-cost institution at an annual price of $19,948 – ranked as having a high graduation rate, with 69.4 percent.

South Dakota State University is also low-cost at $12,815 but boasts a high graduation rate of 59.7 percent. The University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, is medium-cost at $16,019 and has a high graduation rate of 70.2 percent.

Among two-year institutions, Lake Region State College in Devils Lake and North Dakota State College of Science in Wahpeton and Minnesota State Community and Technical College, which has a campus in Moorhead, are all considered medium-cost colleges. Lake Region costs $7,460, MSCTC costs $10,578 and NDSCS costs $9,365.

Lake Region and NDSCS both have what’s considered a high graduation rate among their peers: 52.4 percent of students graduate with an associate degree within three years at Lake Region and 52 percent and NDSCS. MSCTC has a medium graduation rate of 35.4 percent.

Earlier this week, Shirvani said he believes graduation rates can be improved with the statewide education reform plan he introduced last year, which aimed to pair students with institutions they are most suitable for. He stressed the importance of students at four-year institutions graduating in four years, particularly for the state’s two research universities, UND and NDSU.

The college scorecard does not show how many students graduate in four years, but Shirvani said Thursday that 23 percent of UND students and 22 percent of NDSU students do so compared to 47 percent of U of M students.

Student debt

Student debt was considered medium at the majority of colleges and universities in the region. After completing or leaving school, former UND students pay a median $197.02 per month. For former NDSU students, it’s $182.98, and for those who attended MSUM, it was $175.50.

Loan payments for former VCSU students were deemed low at $151.53.

Concordia’s monthly loan payments were ranked as high at $272.44.

Former Lake Region students pay $77.68, considered low. Median monthly loan payments for former students at MSCTC were $109.33, while it was $123.62 for former NDSCS students.

The median monthly payments were based on an interest rate of 6.8 percent and included all federal loans borrowed by a student who graduated or withdrew in 2010-11.

The cost of higher education in North Dakota has skyrocketed in recent years, with total student debt at the Bank of North Dakota alone reaching $1.68 billion at the end of 2012.

Shirvani said the college scorecard data is evidence that UND and NDSU have avoided charging high tuition adopted by other public colleges and universities in the mid-1990s, and he expects the state’s two research universities to keep costs low.

“Given the state’s newfound wealth,” he said, “we would expect both our institutions to steer clear of what has become a national embarrassment with so many low- and middle-income families choosing to opt out of postsecondary educational opportunities due to the high level of debt from borrowing.”

The college scorecard can be found here.


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0405.n.gfh.Collegecosts Copy by inforum_documents


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