Sep 26th, 2005 @ 4:02 pm | Author: By Ellen-Earle Chaffee
A new national publication gives us some perspective on North Dakota's higher education system over time (since 1991) and compared to other states. My overall observations about the following points are that the universities are successfully bucking the population decline, students are paying more compared to other states; the state's funding efforts are not keeping pace; and other similar states are making more significant effort to invest in their futures through higher education.

More people are going to college compared to 1991. From 1991 to 2004, enrollment in public education went up 22 percent in the United States and up 28 percent in North Dakota. The unusually high increase in our state defied the trend of decreasing youth population here.

College students in our state are getting less state support per capita than they had in 1991. During that same period, state funding per student for higher education adjusted for inflation went down 12 percent nationally, and down over 20 percent in North Dakota. We were number 38 among the states on that measure. Wyoming and Missouri both went up more than 25 percent.

North Dakota's students are paying more for tuition. In 2004, tuition was an average of 36 percent of net total revenues in public higher education nationally. In North Dakota, students provided over 40 percent of net total revenues. Wyoming students fared best, contributing only 15.5 percent.

The increase in tuition is not enough to offset the decrease in state support. Total funding per student for higher education, consisting mainly of state funding and tuition revenue, went up just over one percent nationally from 1991 to 2004. In North Dakota, it went down almost 15 percent. North Dakota was number 47 among the states on that measure. Rhode Island, Wyoming, and Missouri each increased total funding per student by over 30 percent.

North Dakota's effort to fund higher education is relatively high. On a per-capita basis and relative to personal income, higher education is 32 and 46 percent, respectively, above the national average. Higher education receives over 11 percent of tax revenues, compared to a national average of less than 8 percent.

Effort looks high because our asset base is relatively low. We tax ourselves at an average rate compared to other states, but we have only 87 percent as much taxable assets, so our tax collections are 87 percent of the national average per person. Missouri accomplished its 25 percent increase for higher education with only 85 percent of the national average tax revenue per person.

Among the states with less wealth, North Dakota is not a leader in its effort to fund higher education. Mississippi is ahead of us on two of three measures. New Mexico and Wyoming are far ahead of any other states. Wyoming provides higher education with more than twice the average support in per- capita and personal income terms, and it invests 14.6 percent of its tax revenues in higher education. New Mexico is at 14.4 percent, compared to our 11.

Cost of living and enrollment mix do not explain North Dakota's relatively low status. Relative to enrollment mix and cost of living, North Dakota higher education revenues score at only 80 percent of the national average, placing us at #42 nationally, ahead of Mississippi, Florida, Arkansas, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Louisiana, New Mexico, and South Carolina. Eight states (Wyoming, Connecticut, Hawaii, New Jersey, Delaware, Michigan, Rhode Island, and Vermont) were at or above 140 percent.

Source: State Higher Education Executive Officers. State Higher Education Finance FY 2004.