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North Dakota waiting on federal money for tech ed centers

The state is waiting for the U.S Department of the Treasury to release nearly $70 million in funding for career and technical education projects across the state.

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GRAND FORKS — About $68.3 million was awarded for the expansion and creation of more than a dozen career and technical education centers across North Dakota on March 14, but the state has not yet received the federal funding needed for those projects.

State legislators approved a portion of the funds for the CTE centers at the most recent legislative session, and added to that amount at the special session that concluded on Nov. 12 last year. About $20 million of those funds have been received and allocated to three CTE projects, but the state is waiting on more than $68 million for other projects, including the planned Career Impact Academy in Grand Forks, the North Valley Career and Technology Center in Grafton and elsewhere.

“The issue we have is that the $68.3 (million) actually isn't even in the state yet,” said Wayde Sick, director of the North Dakota Department of Career and Technical Education.

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Sick was among several people who spoke at a College and Technical Education Council meeting on Monday, March 21. The council works to improve the effectiveness of CTE training in the state. Members include Sick, technical college presidents and the vice chancellor for academic and student affairs of the North Dakota University System. Other departments such as the state Department of Commerce may also participate in meetings.

Sick told the members the grant application for CTE center funding was submitted to the federal government in December. After it was approved, a more detailed plan on how to use the federal funding was submitted in early February, and the state is still awaiting approval.

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According to Sick, the $20 million in approved funds were split up between projects in Dickinson, Watford City and Minot. Those funds come from the state’s allocation of American Rescue Plan dollars, and must be spent by Dec. 31, 2024. The $68.3 million come from the federal Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund, and have a federally-mandated spending deadline of Dec. 31, 2026.

The state, however, set its spending deadline on June 30, 2023. Sick said he will need to ask the Legislature to extend that deadline, at the next regular session.

“We just don't have the flexibility at the state level,” he said.

The Career Impact Academy in Grand Forks was awarded $10 million in federal funding. All grants for CTE projects need to be matched on a dollar-per-dollar basis, and a successful fundraising campaign brought in nearly $11 million in financial and in-kind support. Grafton’s North Valley Area Career & Technology Center received a grant for about $4.7 million, after a similarly successful fundraising campaign raised the same amount.

Eric Ripley, executive director of CTE and technology for Grand Forks Public Schools, said he is not overly concerned that the funds have not yet been federally approved. Grand Forks’ Career Impact Academy, which will be located near the junction of Interstate 29 and Highway 2, is still in the design phase, and construction is a ways off. He said the project falls within the parameters of federal guidelines.

“I think that the unknown is when will that approval come, but we don't anticipate that to be a long delay,” Ripley said.

Ripley said he will speak with members of the state’s federal delegation, to see if they can inquire about the status of the federal funding.

Council members also asked about start-up funding for technical colleges which may partner with regional CTE centers. Running a CTE program, whether that be a welding program or a medical program, is expensive, and requires a regular influx of material for students. The state’s technical colleges derive their revenue from tuition, as well as a biennial appropriation from the state. The length of time it takes for colleges to get state funds may prove burdensome when it comes to setting up expensive new programs.

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In a follow-up phone call, Lisa Johnson, vice chancellor of academic and student affairs for NDUS, said a request for supplemental funding would be brought to the state’s higher education board.

“Hopefully you'll see something like that in our budget request, with the (State Board of Higher Education’s) support when presented to them,” she said.

Per a Department of Career and Technical Education release, other CTE projects in the state are as follows:

  • Southwest Area Career and Technical Education Academy – Dickinson - $3,333,334*
  • Bakken Area Skills Center – Watford City - $3,333,334*
  • Minot Area Workforce Academy – Minot - $3,333,334*
  • Career Impact Academy – Grand Forks - $10,000,000
  • Cass County Career & Technical Education Center – Fargo - $10,000,000
  • North Valley Area Career & Technology Center – Grafton - $4,752,290
  • Williston Basin Career and Technical Education Center – Williston - $10,000,000
  • Heart River Career and Technical Education Center – Mandan - $10,000,000
  • Southeast Region Career and Technology Center – Wahpeton - $2,979,975
  • Bismarck Public Schools – Bismarck - $5,372,203
  • Lake Area Career and Technology Center – Devils Lake - $1,241,074
  • James Valley Area Career and Technology Center - $798,700
  • Sheyenne Valley Area Career and Technology Center - $3,131,986

*Applications were previously partially funded. This award fully funds the project.

Adam Kurtz is the community editor for the Grand Forks Herald. He covers higher education and other topics in Grand Forks County and the city.

Kurtz joined the Herald in July 2019. He covered business and county government topics before covering higher education and some military topics.

Tips and story ideas are welcome. Get in touch with him at akurtz@gfherald.com, or DM at @ByAdamKurtz.

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