ND Higher Education Remains Affordable But Accessibility Work Continues / Public News Service

North Dakota is among the top five states for college affordability. The rankings feature in a new national report, and higher education officials say there is still a lot of work to be done to attract and retain students.

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

Lisa Johnson — vice chancellor for academic and student affairs for the University System of North Dakota — said as schools across the country face enrollment issues, they can’t let these rankings be their only selling point.

“Looking at kind of non-traditional populations of older adults,” Johnson said. “So how do you position yourself by looking online? Hybrid-type teaching? Crash courses?”

Reflecting national trends, some schools in North Dakota have seen declining enrollment in recent years. However, the losses are not as pronounced compared to colleges and universities in other states.

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

Johnson acknowledged that many families are facing increased economic pressure these days, and that requires extra measures to help meet basic needs so students don’t have to lose sight of their college careers.

“A number of our campuses have organized pantries,” Johnson said. “Some of these guys started with student organizations.”

North Dakota State University has a food insecurity task force, and a 2020 survey showed that more than one in three NDSU students had experienced food insecurity.

Meanwhile, Johnson said they remain focused on the education value students pay for, with a focus on campuses needing to demonstrate demand for new programs.

Support for this report was provided by Lumina Foundation.

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