N.D. Republican Legislator Proposes Free Tuition

North Dakota Legislative Watch

Spend your childhood in North Dakota, study hard, and North Dakota promises to pay your college tuition.

That’s the pitch from state Sen. Tony Grindberg, R-Fargo, who will ask the Legislature to enact his plan called the North Dakota Promise. For a first-year cost of $10 million to $12 million, he said, the program will cause measurable population growth by keeping young families in the state, attracting more and creating a highly educated workforce.

Because tuition recipients have to have four years of science and four years of math in high school and no less than a 2.5 grade average, it will boost North Dakota’s “knowledge base” and give our economy the kind of workers in demand in a high-tech information age.

The more years someone spends in North Dakota’s schools during grade school and high school years, the more tuition would be paid, up to 100 percent.

“I think this will resonate with families,” Grindberg said Wednesday in releasing his plan. He wanted to roll it out for public discussion around the holidays in hopes that it will create discussion among family gatherings. He has been working on it for three months.

The first year will be funded out of the state’s surplus, estimated at more than $530 million by next July 1. The “investment,” as Grindberg calls it, would increase after the first year, he acknowledges, but can eventually be paid for from the Bank of North Dakota’s Student Loan Trust Fund and future higher tax collections resulting from economic growth.

Grindberg’s model is the Kalamazoo (Mich.) Promise that’s credited with growing enrollment in Kalamazoo schools by 1,000, or 9 percent, in just one year. It was launched in November 2005. The Wall Street Journal’s realestatejournal.com reported it has sparked a home-building boom in the “downtrodden industrial city.”

“I’ve been watching this in Michigan for quite a while,” Grindberg said.

Anything to make the debtload of North Dakota college students lower is good.

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