Join Date: Nov 2010
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NDAK Hot Draw
Frigid North Dakota Is a Hot Draw For Out-of-State College Students
North Dakota Lures College Students - WSJ.com
FARGO, N.D.?As a high school senior from Connecticut, Diva Malinowski took a coast-to-coast tour of 10 public universities, bearing acceptance letters from each.
She fell in love in Fargo.
"The minute I stepped onto campus, I knew that North Dakota State was for me," says Ms. Malinowski, a 21-year-old senior who matriculated from Miss Porter's School, a private academy for girls in Farmington, Conn.
Ms. Malinowski is evidence of an unlikely trend: the growing allure of higher education in North Dakota. The state ranks 48th in the U.S. at attracting tourists. Its young people routinely flee for warmer or more exciting places. The private sector here, struggling to lure sufficient numbers of workers from elsewhere, is wrestling with labor shortages even amid national unemployment around 9%.
But college students are flocking here in ever greater numbers. Out-of-state students account for about 55% of the 14,500 enrolled at North Dakota State University, as well as at similarly sized University of North Dakota in Grand Forks. Nonresident students at North Dakota's 11 public colleges constitute a higher ratio than in almost every other state.
High school juniors and seniors scouring online college guides find North Dakota universities are inexpensive and well-regarded, with modest-sized classes typically taught by faculty members rather than adjuncts or graduate students.
"I found it online, showed it to my Dad and he was impressed," says California resident Samantha Carlson, who graduated in May from North Dakota's Valley City State University, where her younger brother is now enrolled. For California residents, North Dakota colleges cost about $10,000 a year in tuition and fees compared to about $12,000 in the University of California system.
Many students hail from states far beyond the region. Floridians numbered 182 in 2010, up from 37 in 2000. During the same period, international enrollment rose to 1,600 from 1,125.
"My roommates are from Mongolia and South Korea," says Delaney McCormack, a Kansas resident studying technical theatre and design at North Dakota State.
This isn't happening by accident. A dozen years ago, a years-long decline in the number of state high school graduates was accelerating. Faced with the prospect of closing academic departments or entire schools, university leaders instead moved to attract more students, particularly from beyond state borders.
The state poured money into improving academics. In the National Science Foundation's rankings by federal research expenditures?a key measure of prestige for research universities?North Dakota State and University of North Dakota each jumped ahead of more than 30 other institutions over the past 11 years, to the 147th and 143rd spots, respectively.
While improving its schools, North Dakota kept tuition low. In recent years, state revenues gushing from an oil boom in western North Dakota have given the state more resources to lure nonresidents.
The result: Even as the number of North Dakota high school graduates fell below 7,400 in 2010 from 9,058 in 2000, enrollment at public colleges surged, climbing 38% in the decade ended in 2010, to 48,120. Leading that growth was a 56% jump in nonresident students.
Out-of-state students who have stayed after graduation have helped reverse a decades-long population decline, with North Dakota now on the verge of breaking its 1930 record of 681,000 people.
"For anyone who wants to be at a place on the rise, this is it," says NDSU President Dean Bresciani, the former vice chancellor of student affairs at Texas A&M University. He sees other cash-strapped states as ripe for raids on students, faculty and administrators. "Not to be a vulture about it," he says, "but this is a fantastic opportunity."
Out-of-state students fill both classrooms and budget holes. Traditionally, states charge nonresidents tuition and fees as much as triple that charged to residents. The premium is especially tempting now as state legislatures nationwide slash outlays for higher education.
Facing a funding cut of $650 million or more, the University of California system sent a record 18% of its undergraduate admission letters for the upcoming semester to non-residents, up from 12% in 2009. One goal: to collect a $23,000 premium imposed on out-of-staters, bringing their annual tuition-and-fees to about $35,000.
Luring nonresidents is growing more crucial as the demographic dilemma North Dakota confronted years ago spreads to other states. Due to population shifts, 27 states will see declines in home-grown high-school graduates in the next five to 10 years, says a recent report from the U.S. Department of Education.
As public colleges and universities battle across state lines, "there will be winners and there will be losers," says R. Michael Tanner, an executive of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities.
Among probable winners will be academically elite public colleges such as some in California, Texas, Michigan, Virginia and North Carolina, along with colleges in tourist destinations such as Arizona and Colorado.
Touting both advantages is Vermont, the nation's top nonresident magnet. A once-private public college that offers academic cachet near wooded hills laced with ski slopes, the University of Vermont draws 75% of its freshman class from other states, even though it charges nonresidents tuition of $32,500, about $20,000 more than residents pay.
As a senior at Miss Porter's, the 168-year-old Connecticut boarding school, Ms. Malinowski learned about North Dakota State during a computer search for undergraduate programs in zoology.
She chose it over nine other schools because of the beauty of its tree-lined campus and the personal attention she received from the zoology faculty during her visit. Also, she says, "Downtown Fargo has the restaurants, the coffee bars, the cultural stuff I want."
The aspiring marine veterinarian was delighted that the school helped her obtain summer internships at aquariums in Rhode Island and Florida. Ms. Malinowski is the first Miss Porter's graduate on record to attend North Dakota State.
"I won't be the last," she says.
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