University of North Dakota President Robert Kelley hinted earlier this week that we would like to see money from the state’s recent oil boom go to help reduce or eliminate tuition costs for the university’s students.
Speaking to a group of business leaders from the university’s hometown of Grand Forks, Kelley highlighted a number of building projects underway at the school that are using some of that money. Those projects total over $250 billion and include a $125 million medical school as well as an addition to the law school and a new sports center.
That’s all thanks to the oil business which is projected to to generate nearly $5 billion worth of revenue in the state by 2015, according to KVLY.
But Kelley said he would like to see some of that money also go to relieve pressure on students who pay nearly $5,000 per semester in tuition. That would be an investment in North Dakota’s future, Kelley said.
“The State of Wyoming has done that in their Hathaway program and I think states can make investments in their students for the future,” he said. “So, perhaps that will come up in our legislative session. We have some leadership from other states in these areas and it might be the right time for North Dakota.”
Wyoming’s program is a needs- and merit-based scholarship that provides up to $3,200 a year in tuition relief to students who qualify. But even it is having trouble keeping up with inflating tuition costs.
In March the Casper Star-Tribune reported the Wyoming Legislature approved increasing funding for the Hathaway program by 5 percent. The original bill proposed a 10 percent hike. Neither the 5 percent nor the 10 percent increase would have kept up with the rising tuition costs in the state over the past few years.
State Sen. Hank Coe, a Republican, vowed to get more money to the program in coming years.
"I think we'll look at it here in another couple of years and maybe do some more to try to catch up with the tuition increases," Coe said.
Kelley also pointed out that investment in North Dakota’s students would have a direct impact on the state and local economy.
“(The University of North Dakota’s) impact is over $1 billion overall throughout our city, state and region,” Kelley said according to a university release. “Student spending alone supports over 1,200 secondary jobs in the community.”
Students told KVLY they would love to see their tuition costs reduced or eliminated.
“It would be awesome. How do I sign up for that?” said one.