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Number of non-resident students in North Dakota is growing

The number of in-state high school graduates attending college in North Dakota has been decreasing while the number of non-resident students has grown, according to a new North Dakota University System online dashboard.

The North Dakota University System has launched an interactive online website for the public to easily access facts and figures pertaining to higher education in North Dakota.

The site shows that in 2009-2010, 58 percent of North Dakota high school graduates were enrolled in an NDUS school, and that number has decreased annually to 51 percent in 2012-2013.

Overall headcount enrollment also decreased since last year by less than 1 percent but has actually increased 14 percent over the last decade.

On the other hand, the number of non-resident students enrolled at NDUS schools has increased every fall since 2010 to 21,710 as of the fall of 2014, which is 46 percent of the total number enrolled.

NDUS spokeswoman Linda Donin said this reflects the decreasing number of in-state high school graduates.

The number of high school graduates in the state is expected to decline until after 2018, according to a 2012 report by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education.

"We focus on North Dakota students and that's certainly a priority in many of our discussions with legislators, but when we talk to business leaders they say we don't have enough students to fill all the job openings we have," she said.

Telling numbers

Donlin said the system wants to increase recruitment of both in- and out-of-state students and the cost of attending school in North Dakota plays a part in attracting non-residents.

According to the dashboard, the annual average of tuition and fees at doctoral institutions UND and North Dakota State University is $747 less than the regional average of $8,527.

In fact, all categories were below the regional average except for two-year institutions, which averaged $575 more annually.

Those figures don't include room and board, textbooks and miscellaneous expenses that are figured into projections for "cost of attendance" for on-campus students, Donlin said.

The number of degrees awarded at NDUS institutions in the 2012-2013 school year decreased by 103 from the previous year, which is out of line with the system's stated goal of increasing that number.

"The degrees awarded are in proportion to what's offered and the number of students," Donlin said. "We've got students who sometimes change their minds about what they're going to do or we have new degrees, like petroleum engineering, so some numbers can grow."

Lofty goals

The website's purpose is to be an open and transparent resource for the public, including parents, lawmakers, business leaders, school administrators and counselors and students, Donlin said.

"It's one of Chair (Kirsten) Diederich's platforms to be as transparent as possible in everything we do," Donlin said. "It's why we webcast all of the board meetings now."

Donlin said it should also help reduce the number of information requests her office receives, as well as clearly defining the system's goals.

For example, the website states the NDUS wants to increase faculty usage of open educational resources, such as free online textbooks, by 15 percent over the next five years. This is a brand new initiative and the baseline data for that section is currently being gathered, so no progress is listed.

New admission standards the board recently passed are documented, and the website states a systematic review of NDUS policies and procedures has begun.

Donlin said the board will use the tool to make improvements on goals the system is failing to meet on an annual basis, which could involve changing a goal entirely or just altering it.

"Adjusting the goal or refining the approach doesn't necessarily mean it would be dialed back if we're not on track to reaching the goal — and certainly all of our constituents will be able to track our progress via the dashboards," Donlin said. "In fact, if the goal is still deemed a high priority upon evaluation, the board could require the system and its institutions to ramp up their approaches to meeting the goal."

The site will be updated annually, but some sections more often as information becomes available. It can be accessed here.

Anna Burleson

Anna Burleson is the higher education reporter for The Grand Forks Herald. She is a 2013 graduate of the University of South Dakota's Mass Communication program and is originally from Watertown, S.D. Contact her with story ideas or tips by phone, email or Twitter, all of which are listed below. Examples of her work can be accessed here.