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Future of higher ed costs in North Dakota uncertain

The future of the cost of college in North Dakota is in limbo as state lawmakers look at the possibility of taking control of tuition rates at the state's 11 public institutions.

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The future of the cost of college in North Dakota is in limbo as state lawmakers look at the possibility of taking control of tuition rates at the state's 11 public institutions.

In-state undergraduate tuition and fees alone at UND went from $6,726 in 2010 to $7,741 in 2014, according to the school's 2013 financial report and information from the Office of Institutional Research.

Estimated total costs at UND and North Dakota State University , the system's largest universities, have gone from $11,700 in 2003 to $18,800 in 2013, according to the system's 2014 Student Affordability Report. This 61 percent increase includes tuition, fees, room and board, books, travel and other miscellaneous expenses.

Tuition and fees account for 40 percent of the cost UND and NDSU students paid their respective institutions in 2013-14, according to the affordability report.

House Bill 1303 would give the state power to set tuition rates. Currently the State Board of Higher Education has that authority.

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UND Student Body President Tanner Franklin said the Student Senate hasn't met yet or decided to take a side on the issue, though he personally could see it being beneficial.

"The point of the state board is to establish a committee with expertise in higher ed and then use that knowledge and expertise to do what's best for the institutions in the state. But at the same time, there have been some accountability issues there," he said.

UND spokesman Peter Johnson said the school didn't have any comments on House Bill 1303 and declined to offer any other explanation.

Last February the SBHE had an item on the meeting agenda that would have increased tuition at all institutions an average of 4.2 percent and 4.9 percent at UND alone. The item was removed, however, after student representatives objected for not being consulted on the issue and it was discussed at length over several meetings.
The board ultimately settled on an average increase of 3.2 percent at all institutions except for Williston State College, which saw a 7.1 percent hike to compensate for rapid oil field growth. UND increased tuition 3.7 percent.

"To me it almost makes sense if we've got the Legislature appropriating the funds and budget, would it not make sense to let them set tuition?" Franklin said.

The budget and bill will continue to be addressed throughout the Legislative session.

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