ND Legislator Wants To Create A Nearly Half-Billion College Tuition Entitlement


In the 2007 legislative session, state Senator Tony Grindberg proposed a bill that would have had state taxpayers paying directly for the tuition of college students coming out of the state’s public school system. The students who have had to meet certain basic requirements, but it would have meant that most college-bound students would have gotten a major subsidy from the taxpayers.

That idea was shot down, but in the current legislative session Senator Gindberg is at it again. Apparently finding a $10 million scholarship program proposed by Rep. Al Carlson too puny, Senator Grindberg has proposed enshrining a whopping $450 million entitlement fund for college tuition in the state constitution.

Like Carlson’s bill, it would be funded through the state’s Legacy Fund which, in turn, is funded by the state’s oil and tax revenues.

BISMARCK, N.D. (GPN) – A Fargo state senator wants to set aside $450 million in oil tax collections for North Dakota college scholarships.

Republican Tony Grindberg is pushing a state constitutional amendment to create what he calls the “legacy scholarship fund.”

It would set aside part of an existing oil tax “legacy fund.” The fund gets 30 percent of North Dakota’s oil tax collections. North Dakota voters approved the fund in November 2010. It already has more than $800 million in assets.

This legislation is always sold as a boon to the state’s students, but it’s a mistake to think of it that way. This is just another mechanism to funnel more money into our already bloated campuses, with students acting as the delivery mechanism. Proponent of this sort of policy argue that it helps make higher education more affordable, but that’s just not true.

If you don’t believe me, consider this: Since the 2003-05 biennium spending on higher education in North Dakota has increased 150% (assuming something close to Governor Jack Dalrymple’s executive budget recommendation is approved for the coming biennium) while enrollment has increased just 8.7%.


Now, you would think that huge increase in per-student appropriations would have kept tuition down, but you’d be wrong. In roughly that same time window, tuition at almost all of North Dakota’s universities has doubled or nearly doubled for in-state students (keep in mind that out of state students also get millions of dollars worth of tuition waivers and stipends):

chart_1 (1)

The taxpayers pending more money on higher education has not kept the cost of higher education for students in the past, so why would we assume that it would going forward? Why would the universities, with millions more in tuition subsidies available on the market, not keep jacking up tuition as far as the market will bear?

These sort of tuition subsidies don’t make college more affordable. They simply enable more tuition hikes. These subsidies will quickly be absorbed into tuition increases, making the campuses more lavish and the higher ed administrators and faculty wealthier while delivering nothing really to the students or the taxpayers in additional value.

We should be trying to find ways to make higher education more efficient, not ways to funnel more money into the system.