Higher Ed Report Card Shows Abysmal Track Record For North Dakota Universities


The Chronicle of Higher Education has new information out for their College Competition database which compares how both public and private universities are performing in the various states. Despite taxpayers having increased spending on higher education by more than 150% over the last decade, and despite North Dakota coming in at #2 in the nation when it comes to state assistance for college students, the North Dakota University System has an abysmal track record.

For instance, the state’s two largest universities graduate only 1 in 2 students after six years, and they’re the best in the state. When you look at some of the smaller four-year institutions, like Minot State and and Dickinson State, the six-year graduation rates are downright appalling:


The state’s two-year colleges are even worse:


All four of the state’s two-year universities are graduating less than half of their students after three years. Two of them are graduating about a third.

And for both the two-year and four-year colleges, look at the spending per completion numbers. At the University of North Dakota we’re spending nearly $100,000 for every graduate.

The higher education bureaucrats and their apologists like to talk about the return on investment taxpayers get when we put money into higher education. The taxpayers have certainly put a lot of money in, increasing funding by 150% while enrollment has gone up just 8.5% (and don’t forget that North Dakota student loan debt has increased 125%), but where’s the return on investment when so few of the kids who attend these institutions graduate?

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters.

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  • DelawareBeachHouse

    Am I reading this right? I went to the interactive section and looked at the completion rate per 100 students at 2-year colleges, and North Dakota ranked the highest in the nation. Also did very well in terms of costs per completion.


    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      Second-best in the nation for two-year colleges, yes (much, much worse for the four-years) but on what planet is a 38% graduation rate after 3 years for a two-year degree anything but abysmal?

      All you’re saying is that we’re doing the best in a nation that, as a whole, is doing very poorly.

      • DelawareBeachHouse

        But 2-year colleges enrolls lots of students for specific courses, certificates, etc. An AB degree is not the only reason to enroll in a community college.

        Best is still best.

        • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

          being the best of a lot of bad schools is hardly something to hang your hat on.

      • reggy

        Part of the problem with the 2-year school numbers is that as a general rule they’re open enrollment schools, so you have to factor in the reality that they bring in a ton of students who won’t cut it, but they can’t turn away.

        • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

          that’s a fair point.

    • disqus_IEwqcrJt23

      Also remember that a major reason students attend a 2 year university is usually for a cheaper way to be part time students rather than paying higher tuition at a 4 year or private. Many of the students there are working full time jobs if not multiple jobs, have families and other obligations. That is a major reason that 2 year schools graduate a slower rate than they “should”.

  • RCND

    Another nail in the coffin for SBHE hopefully. Word on the street is there are a few resolutions being looked at for filing on allowing the voters to decide on changing the governance system. Hope they come soon…

  • RandyBoBandy

    Trends like this tend to occur when you accept anyone who applies.

    • two_amber_lamps

      I’m sure they’ll take your money… or let you sign your life away in debt. Who’s fault is that? It’s like blaming a credit card company for letting their customers hang themselves with debt.

      Caveat Emptor.

  • toomuchguvmint

    Perhaps a large % of enrolled students realize that they are being sold a pile of malarkey after a brief enrollment period and perhaps they realize that the potential cost of a degree is just not worth it. In other words, nip it in the bud before the cost becomes catastrophic.

  • matthew_bosch

    Since paying off debt is a concept of the past, I say to these kids “spend away” get more loans, screw it, we’ll just pass a bailout for you down the road when this issue goes upside down like the housing crisis. Don’t worry about jobs, they advertise food stamp programs and I think you can get a free phone now as well. Why work to make 40k a year when you can do better by joining the Central Planner’s Social Justice Crusade.

    • Lianne

      sarcasm, duly noted

  • headward

    “but where’s the return on investment when so few of the kids who attend these institutions graduate?”

    Investment means we’ll get our money back plus some profit. I don’t see the NDUS bring any revenue to the general fund. If ND were to sell the universities, would anybody want to buy that money pit?

  • http://Sayanythingblog.com The Whistler

    Your mistake is in assuming that our colleges are about educating students. The are really for taking money from those that have abilities to those that have no abilities.

    • ec99

      All too true, Mr. Peabody. Completions are always going to suffer when 25% of the freshmen leave UND. Also, any stats on how many UND and NDSU grads actually stay in ND after graduation?

      • http://Sayanythingblog.com The Whistler

        Who cares as long as the Looney faculty from out opf state keep their do nothing jobs

  • Z

    I would like to see comparable stats for private colleges in the area like Concordia, St. Johns, Jamestown college, etc. I think the privates have higher enrollment standards, offer valuable academic scholarships to students who worked hard and did well in high school, and they seem to graduate more of their students in four years. Maybe it’s time to privatize higher education or restrict state college enrollment to residents-only and give the taxpayer a break. If parents have to fund college for their own kids, I think you see the whole educational system improve dramatically as parents and kids demand a better return on “their” money.

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      the data for private colleges is available at the link in the post.

  • awfulorv

    I am proud to be the friend of a gentleman who, through extremely hard work, which he treated as a game, became a Civil Engineer, primarily by attending night classes at two year colleges in the bay area. He recently sold his offices on both coasts for millions. He still approaches every day as a treat, a gift given to him, and in doing so infects everyone around him with his zest for life. Good on him…