North Dakota House passes higher ed bill featuring tuition freeze, $374M for campus projects
In addition to a tuition freeze, the higher education budget bill passed by the North Dakota House includes support for "single mothers," even at several private institutions.
BISMARCK — The North Dakota House has approved a higher education budget bill that includes money for a tuition freeze, capital building funds for projects on most campuses and support for students who are “single mothers.”
House Bill 1003 passed behind a 78-15 vote on the House floor on Tuesday, Feb. 21.
The higher ed budget bill covers the biennium beginning July 1, 2023, and ending June 30, 2025.
The centerpiece of the bill, outlined by Rep. Mark Sanford, R-Grand Forks, is a two-year freeze on tuition and fee rates, amounting to $47 million in savings for resident students.
The cost to be paid by the state represents what would have been a 4% annual tuition increase for the upcoming two years.
“South Dakota has already made that move, Minnesota is in the news for doing it, Montana is considering it, so we have it in here,” Sanford said.
Rep. Mike Nathe, R-Bismarck said it was the first tuition freeze in the state in 28 years.
“Think about that, back to 1995, was the last time we were able as a state to freeze tuition for not one year but two years. And we find ourselves in a wonderful envious financial position right now,” Nathe said.
A modest tuition increase would be allowed for high-cost programs on campuses, according to a news release from North Dakota House Republicans.
“We have a large surplus right now and it’s time we did something to help the next generation. This tuition freeze will help keep students in college and attract others to our public universities, while also addressing workforce needs,” Majority Leader Mike Lefor, R-Dickinson, said in the release.
The budget bill also allocates $4.5 million for a “crisis care program” to support students at all 11 colleges and universities who are pregnant or are single mothers with a child or children under age 4.
The program would extend to each tribally-controlled community college and private institutions to include University of Jamestown and University of Mary.
Another $25 million would go toward workforce scholarships.
The bill includes capital building funds for projects on 10 campuses to the tune of $374 million.
North Dakota State University in Fargo would receive $84 million for a center for engineering and computational sciences.
The University of North Dakota in Grand Forks would receive $82 million for a science, engineering and national security corridor and $75 million for a science, technology, engineering and math building.
Other capital building allocations call for $36 million for a medical healthcare building at Williston State College and $31 million for a multipurpose academic and athletic center at Bismarck State College.
The only campus not listed for capital building funds is Mayville State University.
The higher education budget bill also calls for the cost of any severance agreement approved by the State Board of Higher Education to be paid from the North Dakota University System Office’s budget.
This stems from a controversy involving a severance package offered to former NDSU President Dean Bresciani.
The State Board of Higher Education approved a $400,000 severance for Bresciani when it voted not to renew his contract, which some have referred to as a "golden parachute."
Nathe said this change is a way to ensure schools aren’t penalized for a severance agreement in which they have no input.
House Bill 1003 now heads to the Senate, where it will first be heard in the Senate Appropriations Education and Environment Subcommittee.