The student news site of University of North Dakota

Dakota Student

The student news site of University of North Dakota

Dakota Student

The student news site of University of North Dakota

Dakota Student


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A Catastrophe for North Dakota Universities 

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In a move that NDSU President David Cook calls full of “catastrophic implications” for North Dakota’s universities, Minnesota’s North Star Promise program will offer eligible students a tuition-free university experience in state. As reported by Fortune’s Jack Dura, Steve Karnowski, and the Associated Press, this program “will cover undergraduate tuition and fees at Minnesota’s public post-secondary schools for students whose family income is below $80,000 after they’ve tapped other sources of financial aid.” It is promised to take place in the fall of 2024.  

Obviously, many Minnesota residents are ecstatic, but for North Dakota’s universities, things are looking bleak. “More than half of North Dakota State University’s incoming class, and 45% of its undergraduate student body, consists of students from Minnesota, according to estimates presented at the meeting… [and] Minnesota natives make up 24% of undergraduates at North Dakota State College of Science, and 28% at the University of North Dakota,” reports CBS News’ Irina Ivanova. If these Minnesota students end up becoming the projected 15,000 to 20,000 users of the North Star Promise program as MPR News expects, “In one scenario, education officials in North Dakota projected an $8.4 million loss in combined tuition and fees just in the first year.”   

There are even more drawbacks for North Dakota universities as in a report with CBS News’ Rod Flanigan, the North Dakota State College of Science President, said “Probably half our football team comes from Minnesota, so that’s kind of a big deal to us.” North Dakota’s sports teams are expected to suffer major losses, but perhaps more importantly, North Dakota’s workforce is also expected to be impacted negatively in a major way. CBS News reports that, “…the greater concern, according to officials from UND and NDSU, is the effect on the state’s workforce as Minnesotans who move to the state for school and stay for work are a major source of population growth.” These threats can be summed up here: North Dakota’s athletics will suffer, North Dakota’s population and workforce will suffer, and North Dakota’s universities will lose tuition and students.   

So, what can North Dakota and its universities do about these upcoming threats that Minnesota’s North Star Promise program poses?  

One possible solution is offering in-state tuition rates to Minnesota residents. CBS reported that this was a suggestion made by UND’s President Andrew Armacost who also suggested combining advertising costs among the state’s schools to save money.  

Another suggestion was to offer a similar program in North Dakota. MPR News notes, “Democratic state Sen. Tim Mathern has pitched a $17 million “Dakota Promise” forgivable student loan program for high school graduates of North Dakota and neighboring states, but “targeted to North Dakota residents.” MPR later explains that this early draft proposal would cover undergraduate tuition and fees at North Dakota’s 11 public colleges and universities as well as its five tribal colleges. In that interview, Sen. Mathern stated that his proposal would be “a new way for more North Dakotans to afford to go to college, so if five Minnesotans leave, this gives five more North Dakotans the idea to go to college.”   

However, some North Dakota Republicans suggest doing nothing about these threats that the North Star Promise program may bring to North Dakota universities. CBS News writes that State Representative Bob Martinson, a Republican on the Higher Education committee, told them that he feared that people making more than the $80,000 aid cap would work less in order to qualify for free tuition, adding, “We may just have to live with what we have.”  

Whatever the case may be, it is clear that Minnesota’s life-changing North Star Promise act will have major impacts on North Dakota, impacts that North Dakota may be able to use for its better, if so prepared. Let us hope that North Dakota University System Chancellor Mark Hagerott was right when he told Fortune magazine that, “I’m confident we can avoid catastrophe.”   


Dura, J., Karnowski, S., & The Associated Press. (2023, July 3). Minnesota’s new free college tuition program sparking fear in neighboring North Dakota. Fortune. 

Dura, J. (2023, August 3). North Dakota lawmakers eye Minnesota free tuition program that threatens enrollment. Twin Cities Pioneer Press. 

Ivanova, I. (2023, June 30). North Dakota college’s participation in Minnesota’s free tuition program raises concerns. CBS News. 

The Associated Press. (2023, August 4). North Dakota lawmakers eye Minnesota free tuition program that threatens enrollment. MPR News. 


Kira Symington is a Dakota Student Section Editor. She can be reached at [email protected].  

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