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ND Higher Education Still Affordable, But Accessibility Work Continues

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Monday, June 6, 2022   

North Dakota is among the top five states for college affordability. That ranking is in a new national report, and higher-education officials say there's still a lot of work to do to attract and retain students.

North Dakota landed second on the website dealA's college affordability list. In addition to reasonable tuition at the state's public and private institutions, low cost of living for students was cited as another factor.

Lisa Johnson - vice chancellor for academic and student affairs for the North Dakota University System - said with schools around the country facing enrollment challenges, they can't let these rankings be their only selling point.

"Looking at sort of non-traditional populations of older adults," said Johnson. "So, how do we position ourselves by looking at online? Hybrid-type instruction? Accelerated courses?"

Mirroring national trends, some North Dakota schools have seen enrollment declines in recent years. However, the losses aren't as pronounced when compared with colleges and universities in other states.

Last fall, the University of North Dakota reported its highest total enrollment since 2018.

Johnson acknowledged many families face more economic pressure these days, and that requires additional steps to help meet basic needs so that students don't have to lose sight of their academic career.

"A number of our campuses have organized food pantries," said Johnson. "Some of those kind of started with student organizations."

North Dakota State University has a Food Insecurity Task Force, and a 2020 survey showed more than one in three NDSU students had experienced food insecurity.

Meanwhile, Johnson said they remain focused on providing value for the education students are paying for, with an emphasis on campuses having to demonstrate demand for new programs.

Support for this reporting was provided by Lumina Foundation.




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