ND Higher Ed Spending Has Increased 159 Percent, Enrollment Up 9 Percent


I wrote a post about the most recent Budget and Fiscal Trends document from Legislative Council and included several graphs about the state’s taxing and spending policy, but I thought one graph deserved a post all its own.

Because it’s absurd. Ridiculously absurd.

Here’s the state’s spending trend on higher education which illustrates a 159 percent increase in state appropriations (taking into account Governor Jack Dalrymple’s proposed 11.5 percent increase for the coming biennium) to higher education over a less than 9 percent increase in full time equivalent enrollment:highereducation

One of those lines is flat. The other is not.

And that’s the problem, in a nutshell, with higher education in North Dakota. In fact, it illustrates a number of problems.

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#000000″ txt_color=”#ffffff”]”Despite a 159 percent increase in taxpayer funding, tuition at the state’s two “research institutions” (UND and NDSU) has increased more than 48 percent.”[/mks_pullquote]

Like the fact that higher education has creeped far beyond its core mission of educating students. How can you conclude otherwise when enrollment has been relatively stagnant, while spending has exploded. They’re spending a lot more money, and it’s not because they have a lot more students.

It also illustrates the problems with our approach to higher education policy. We want to improve our institutions (which are great at winning football and hockey teams but relatively mediocre when it comes to academic outcomes), and we seem to think we can do that by pouring money into them. But has that resulted in improved graduation rates? Improved student achievement?

There’s no evidence that these things are true.

Nor has this increase in taxpayer appropriations defrayed the cost of attending these institutions. Despite a 159 percent increase in taxpayer funding, tuition at the state’s two “research institutions” (UND and NDSU) has increased more than 48 percent for resident North Dakota students.

Tuition at the states four-year and two-year schools has increased 45 percent and 30 percent, respectively:



If we’re spending 159 percent more tax dollars on higher education, but we’re not improving academic outcomes or graduation rates and we’re not making the universities any cheaper for students to attend, then what exactly are we accomplishing?