BISMARCK - A free tuition plan for North Dakota students won't become law this session. The North Dakota Promise plan, sponsored by Sen. Tony Grindberg, R-Fargo, promised reduced tuition to students who meet certain academic and residency require...
BISMARCK - A free tuition plan for North Dakota students won't become law this session.
The North Dakota Promise plan, sponsored by Sen. Tony Grindberg, R-Fargo, promised reduced tuition to students who meet certain academic and residency requirements beginning in 2012 and free tuition beginning in 2017.
The bill was defeated Thursday on the House floor by a vote of 28-65, after winning passage last month in the Senate.
After the vote, Grindberg said he thinks the bill represented a big idea which legislators are hesitant to embrace quickly.
"I would have hoped (the bill) would have continued further," he said. "Ideas like this, at this level of investment, sometimes take two to three sessions. I respect the process and this time the votes weren't there."
Grindberg has been approached by several people in his Fargo district interested in organizing a scholarship program for local students similar to the Promise plan. That program would be funded through a mix of private and public funds, he said.
The Promise Bill was based in large part on the Kalamazoo Promise, a free tuition program in Kalamazoo, Mich., that is largely funded through a single private donation.
The House Education Committee voted 10-3 on a do-not-pass recommendation for the bill March 13. Rep. RaeAnn Kelsch, R-Mandan, who chairs that committee, introduced the bill Thursday, calling it "well-intentioned" and something the state should "look at more closely."
The program was estimated to cost about $40 million per biennium. University System Vice Chancellor Laura Glatt testified to House legislators the tuition waivers would apply to between 1,300 and 1,500 North Dakota students in 2012 and then likely increase. She stressed that was a very rough estimate.
Rep. Ole Aarsvold, D-Blanchard, championed the bill on the floor. Gesturing to visiting high school students in the House balcony, he urged lawmakers to support their energy and hard work and help them attend college in the state.
"There's no doubt it costs a lot of money," he said. "But these young folks are worth it. Good things are expensive."
Supporters of the North Dakota Promise Bill said it would give high school students an incentive to study harder because of provisions requiring Promise recipients to take four years of high school math and science and score a minimum 23 on the ACT test. Supporters also said the bill would raise flagging college enrollments, increase the state's knowledge capital, which would spur economic development and draw more young families into the state.
Critics worried Promise recipients would take advantage of free tuition and then bolt the state, taking their education and workforce skills with them. Students graduating from a public four-year university in North Dakota carry an average $22,839 in debt, the second highest in the country, according to Project on Student Debt, a nonprofit funded in part by the Pew Charitable Trust and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.
Marks reports on higher education. Reach him at (701) 780-1105, (800) 477-6572, ext. 105; or email@example.com .