Number of North Dakota graduates upThe numbers of North Dakota residents graduating from college are higher than ever, but western North Dakota may not attribute much to the increase for the next few years, officials said Friday.
By: April Baumgarten, The Dickinson Press
The numbers of North Dakota residents graduating from college are higher than ever, but western North Dakota may not attribute much to the increase for the next few years, officials said Friday.
“We are seeing those unfortunate indicators where we are seeing dropout rates in high schools that are growing, especially in the Williams County area and so forth,” said Richard Rathge, North Dakota State Data Center director.
The State Data Center indicated approximately one in four North Dakotans ages 25 and older completed a bachelor’s degree in 2009, which is up from 22 percent in 2000 and 18 percent in 1990.
North Dakota has followed an upward trend similar to the rest of the nation, Rathge said. In 1960, the state saw less than 6 percent of the residents ages 25 years or older with bachelor’s degrees. The county was at almost 8 percent.
“Contrast that with today in 2010, (North Dakota) is at almost 26 percent,” Rathge said. “It is a rather nice upward linear trend of educational attainment.”
The number for residents in North Dakota ages 25 and older who have less than a high school diploma was at 11 percent in 2009 — a decrease of 16 percent from 2000.
In 2009, 13.3 percent of Stark County residents did not complete high school, and the percentage of residents that graduated from college was lower than the state average at 23.3 percent. Rathge said an oil boom in western North Dakota may be keeping potential students out of college.
“We are enticing those with education because there are some significant skill sets that the people in the oilfields need,” Rathge said. “Then we look at the roughnecks, which don’t necessarily need that level of education.”
Some high school students put off college to work in the oilfield. Belfield resident Eric Baer said he went to work in the oilfield because he didn’t know what he wanted to do in college.
“I didn’t really enjoy high school much,” Baer said. “I figure the oilfield money is there.”
Baer said he enjoys working in the oilfield and could see himself continuing his work for five to 10 years.
Rathge said it would be interesting how the “mixed bag” of people looking at the oilfield for employment will play a part in education numbers.
“Oil booms always have busts,” Rathge said. “And for those who are seeking their fortune that is a very short-term philosophy. It’s a short-term way of thinking, but it has a long-term, unfortunate consequence.”
Laura Steffan, Belfield, worked for Missouri Basin during high school before going to North Dakota State University. The NDSU sophomore said she liked the summer job, but she wanted to expand her education. She also said the oil boom would not last forever.
“It’s a good job, but it’s not always going to be there,” Steffan said. “Oilfield workers go to the oilfields for money, which is fine. I just think you are going to go further with a degree.”
Despite numbers in western North Dakota being less than the desired marks, Rathge said he could see the state’s numbers increasing in the following years. He added more students graduate because the state and its residents have a high value for education.
“The educational system provides a wonderful opportunity for its students,” Rathge said. “Across the board, that is really good news for the state.”