Despite lack of a unanimous decision, the Board voted in favor of raising the cost of tuition at NDSU to prevent cuts. The state refused to pay for the increase in costs to higher education. Due to this failure the difference, unfortunately, gets passed onto us — the students.
“I think the students are making it up one way or the other. They’re either paying more in tuition to maintain what they have, or there’s going to be some reduction in something, somewhere,” said Kari Reichert of the State Board of Higher Education in a meeting on March 27.
Students are seeing tuition raises year after year, and many of these raises are not backed up with valid purposes. A “reduction in something, somewhere” is an especially inadequate reason for the State Board of Higher Education to give to students, many of whom are struggling to afford college as it is. Comments such as this from the administrators in charge of advancing higher education in our state are disheartening. They leave students with a feeling that those in control of their education are out of touch with and apathetic to the student experience.
Another argument for tuition raises is that NDSU is an extremely affordable college for students. State Sen. Tim Flakoll stated that NDSU is “still a bargain” for students. That may be the case now, but if students continue to see increases year after year, NDSU is no longer going to be the affordable university it once was.
Passing the additional expenses on to students makes little sense given the economic boom of North Dakota since oil extraction and production began. North Dakota has some of the lowest production and extraction tax rates in the country. Yet, even its marginal 5 percent tax on production and 6.5 percent tax on extraction — among the lowest such tax rates in the nation — yielded over 3.4 billion dollars from 2011 to 2013.
Over the course of the next two years, the state’s general fund, which is padded largely by oil tax revenues, will appropriate $902.6 million to higher education, while students throughout the state will be liable for $686.5 million for their educations. This ratio does not match the higher education funding formula put in place last year, which dictates that the state fund 60 percent of higher education costs, with the remaining 40 percent falling to the students.
Oil production, however, will eventually end. The state should be investing in things that are viable long term, such as a higher education institution that is well taken care of and will bring economic value to the state for a very long time.
The state position regarding the oil boom can be compared to that of a lottery winner. It was not achieved through any other means than luck. Eventually the well will run dry and the money will stop flowing. If that money is not invested and spent appropriately, like most lottery winners, their condition will be worse than before. Similarly, the state should seek to invest the money, while they have it, into projects that will endure and succeed in the future. One of those options is higher education. An increase in funding would help secure low tuition costs and keep NDSU the “bargain” that it has been for years to come.