Oct 22nd, 2007 @ 2:01 pm | Author: By Ellen-Earle Chaffee
I recently attended several presentations that were loaded with facts and data about North Dakota, higher education, and economic development. Here is some of the information I found especially fascinating.

According to extensive national data, a state that has more working-age people with bachelor's degrees will have higher average personal income and higher state economic strength – and vice versa if education is low. Highly educated states are also healthier on average, have higher volunteerism, and have stronger arts economies. States with low education rates have higher incarceration rates. North Dakota's rate is 28%, a little lower than the US average of 30%.

One of North Dakota's exceptional strengths, is in the proportion of higher education degrees awarded in science and engineering – more than one-third of our college graduates are in these two areas, compared with about one-fourth of U.S. graduates.

North Dakota spends just under 1% of the higher education budget for state grants to students, while the national average is 11%. North Dakota state and local funding per student in 2005 was $4,413, compared to the U.S. average of $5,833. The U.S. figure was down almost 9% from the 1995 level, and the ND figure was down over 17% compared to 1995.

North Dakota has very high rates of graduation from high school and entry into college. The percentage of adults with an associate (two-year) degree is one of the highest in the country. On the other hand, the proportion of people age 25-49 with bachelor's degrees or enrolled in postsecondary education are low.

On a 2007 national economic development report card for the states, North Dakota's top strengths included high school graduation rate, graduate students in science and engineering, academic research and development, and PhD scientists and engineers. The state ranked low on business created via university R&D, disparity between rural and urban areas, average annual pay, and charitable giving.

The United States is losing ground in percent of adults with postsecondary degrees. Of the 30 countries in Organization for Economic and Cooperative Development (OECD), the US was first in people ages 55-64 with degrees, but 8th in ages 25-34. Countries that are placing greater emphasis on higher education include Canada, Japan, South Korea, and the Scandinavian countries.

The Lumina Foundation predicts that there will be three million more jobs than workers by 2012, and that 40% of factory floor jobs will need a bachelor's degree in ten years due to the rapidly increasing level of sophistication in manufacturing. Today, North Dakota Job Service lists 10,000 vacancies in the state.

To me, this information paints a picture of a state with much cause for pride and a great deal of potential. We have accessible higher education for all ages and an economy that is beginning to diversify with a strong emphasis on science, engineering, and technologies. Now if we can just get enough people to fill those jobs and the ones that are in development for the future!

The sources for this column are: "Setting the Stage," National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, September 2007; and "MHEC in North Dakota," Larry A. Isaak, Midwestern Higher Education Compact, September 2007.