Affordability, debt, loans and retention were the main focus of Wednesday’s joint meeting of the state legislature’s higher education committee and the state board of higher education.
Affordability, debt, loans
The first part of the meeting featured Chris Erickson, a North Dakota University System data specialist, who spoke about NDUS’s campaign of drawing students as early as the 8th grade to enroll the system’s institutions. Erickson has worked on NDUS’s campaign of drawing students to enroll in the system’s institutions.
Laurie Weber, financial aid director at Minot State University, then presented the current processes of the free application for federal student aid, including an update on the 2017-18 application season in which students applying for FAFSA will be able to use their family’s tax information from the 2015 fiscal year.
Tammy Dolan, NDUS CFO, then presented information on North Dakotan scholarships, grants and tuition.
Dolan presented that tuition at all North Dakota institutions is lower than regional counterparts.
Some representatives questioned Dolan’s information, as the tuition statistic Dolan presented weighed North Dakota against every other state in the Union except for Alaska, Hawaii and California.
“Is there any way students can get this information early on?” SBHE member Kevin Melicher asked.
Dolan said the information should be on NDChoose, adding that NDUS should be getting the information to them.
Institutional scholarships were also discussed, with Dolan saying the eligibility ,” varies by institution and scholarship.”
Dolan also said that the national average of debt at the time of graduation for a North Dakota student is lower than the national average, and North Dakota students also default at a lower rate than the national average.
Richard Rothaus, NDUS interim vice chancellor for academic and student affairs, presented information focusing on retention and graduation rates.
He said that the retention rate at four year institutions in North Dakota is at or slightly below the national average, and that four year regional institutions are also below the national average for retention.
Retention at two year institutions in North Dakota is slightly above the national average, Rothaus said.
“Nationally, less than 35 percent of students at four-year schools graduate within four years,” Rothaus said.
Rothaus also added that North Dakota schools run under the national average for 150 percent graduation rates, meaning the graduation rate after six years of postsecondary work.
Melicher then asked if four year schools are turning into six year schools, and if two year schools are turning into four year schools, to which Rothaus said in mind is essentially correct.
Melicher said that North Dakota should “attempt to get those down to three and five, or two and four.”
Rep. Roscoe Streyle (R-Minot) asked if class scheduling had been taken into account as of late.
Rathaus said tracking class scheduling is not on the system level, but individual universities track that themselves.
“I think we’re under-utilizing the classes,” Streyle said.
In the final part of the meeting, Streyle said, “We’re waiving a lot of money for international students, but not for our own.”
“It’s how much do we finance that? As opposed to how much do we help North Dakotans,” SBHE chair Kathleen Neset said.