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ND leaders weigh cost of tuition freeze

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- The Higher Education Funding Committee, which is composed of North Dakota legislators, decided to look into how much it would cost to freeze college tuition at a meeting Wednesday in Grand Forks.

After the State Board of Higher Education partially blamed 2015's tuition increase on a budget appropriation shortfall, Sen. Tim Flakoll, R-Fargo, said he wanted to look into how legislative appropriations would affect tuition rates ahead of time since it "caused a lot of post-session angst."

The board is already looking at freezing tuition at two-year schools because the cost is higher than the area average, but the committee requested more research on the topic and wanted to see what it would cost to freeze or cap tuitions at a lower rate at all institutions.

"I think policy-wise it sounds like we'd like to be below the regional average," said Rep. Mark Sanford, R-Grand Forks.

The committee also erred on the side of caution when it came to the state board allotting $2.5 million of a $5 million performance funding pool toward a program that would interpret data that institutions could use to anticipate student success.

Predictive Analytic Reporting, more commonly called PAR, and Starfish are the two programs that would help institutions analyze things such as graduation rates and GPAs to then implement programs to help students be more successful.

But legislators on the committee had varying opinions on what the money was originally intended for when it was allocated during the last legislative session.

"My question would be, 'Is the $5 million to do work or to reward work?'" Flakoll said. "I thought it were sold that it was to reward."

The discussion ended with Sanford suggesting legal counsel look into the matter, but University System interim Chancellor Larry Skogen recommended adding the cost of the services into the regular budget request at an SBHE committee meeting later that day.

Other business

DeAnna Carlson, the new CEO of the University of North Dakota's Alumni Association, addressed the committee along with several other university representatives from around the state and said the Legislature's grant-matching program that was implemented during the last session had been a success.

Carlson said UND had raised $6.3 million that was matched with $3.1 million thanks to the program.

"The match has allowed us to plant more ground," she said.

The money is going toward endowed chair positioning within UND and scholarship funding.