Are Tuition Subsidies For The Students, Or For The Universities?


State Senator Tim Flakoll, a Republican from District 44 in Fargo, is getting a jump start on the next legislative session which will convene in January. He’s proposing a bill to expand tuition subsidies.

“The legislation would expand the number of recipients from about 8,000 to 10,000 and increase the scholarship amount by 3 percent, bringing the current $1,648 scholarship to $1,700 per student,” reports the Fargo Forum’s Cali Owings. The subsidies target low-income students, and they would cost the taxpayers an additional $11 million per biennium.

What Owings’ article doesn’t mention is that Senator Flakoll is an employee of the North Dakota University System. One who gets to take extra-long paid vacations during the legislative session (until salary double-dipping was written into his contract).

That’s important, because after the university system just completed yet another round of aggressive tuition hikes, you have to wonder if additional taxpayer subsidies for tuition is policy truly aimed at the students, or just another way to keep the gravy train flowing for Senator Flakoll’s bosses in the university system?

The tuition hikes themselves came after news of taxpayers bailing out the REAC building – built with millions of taxpayer dollars by the supposedly private and now defunct UND Research Foundation – and moving the expense of a Sanford-owned nursing college to the North Dakota State University Budget.

Is the cost of higher education going up because our universities have diverted their energies to these sorts of crony capitalism side projects?

There is a demonstrable cause-and-effect relationship between taxpayer subsidies for tuition and increased tuition rates at universities. The more taxpayers subsidize the students, the more universities can charge. We’ve reached a point where tuition subsidies aren’t helping students so much as they’re enabling higher education’s decline into fiscal decadence.

As with a lot of policies, the public is sold on this sort of thing as being “for the children.” But it’s not for the children. It’s more money funneled into our increasingly outsized universities that have strayed far from their core academic missions.