Interview: Rep. Oversen Says University Needs Scrutiny On Tuition Increases


Rep. Kylie Oversen has introduced HB1328 which would freeze tuition at all institutions in the North Dakota University System at 2013 levels for two years. The university system, however, is questioning the legislature’s legal authority to control tuition.

I interviewed Re. Oversen about her bill yesterday:

It was originally reported that Rep. Oversen’s bill would include a $25 million appropriation to replace revenues lost from potential tuition increases, but she noted that dollar figure is still in flux because of other pending changes to the funding models for the universities.

Chancellor Hamid Shirvani has said that a tuition cap wouldn’t be legal, suggesting in a committee hearing on Rep. Oversen’s bill that it “erodes constitutional authority.” I asked Rep. Oversen about that, and she said it’s “something we’ve done before.”

“We have both frozen at the two-years and capped at the four-years for the past four years,” Oversen told me referring to other tuition controls the legislature has put in place. “If that’s the question it should have been challenged in the past”

I also asked Rep. Oversen about tuition increases in the context of dramatic increases in state funding for the universities. If Governor Jack Dalrymple’s executive budget recommendations go through, the university system will have seen a 150% increase in funding from 2003 through the next biennium.

“That’s a great question,” Rep. Oversen told me. “The higher ed budget is complicated, and I thin there are probably areas we can reduce spending or at least hold spending even and be more efficient in our expenditure of dollars.”

Rob Port is the editor of 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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  • ec99

    I think North Dakota is unique in that I don’t believe any other state has had the equivalent of a decades-long parade of UND students marching through the legislature. In my memory it began with everyone’s favorite Socialist, Jennifer Ring. Although there may be others who predated her. The surprise is that these kids have no real life experience, yet are given the privilege of voting on measures which affect many who do. I really don’t care about the tuition freeze; it doesn’t affect me. Although it’s clear all the institutions have been exploiting students. I’m just surprised no one has raised the self-interest flag in regard to this person.

    • two_amber_lamps

      It was originally reported that Rep. Oversen’s bill would include a $25
      million appropriation to replace revenues lost from potential tuition

      I’d say as a taxpayer this portion of the tuition freeze affects you….

      • ec99

        Could be. We’ll have to see how it all washes out.

    • RCND

      You are correct in that District 42 has primarily been represented by recent UND grads who are just not quite ready to get out in the real world and do real things. Granted Mac is an attorney, so you can decide for yourself if that is real or not, but Corey runs a free health clinic and Kylie works for the Alumni Association (both these two list a PO box as their address too, which always makes you wonder where they really live and is that in the district). Thus this stint in the Legislature is for the most part a resume builder for them and less a call to serve the people of the state, unlike what you will find in other districts.

      But, that is not to say that successful political careers have not been born there either. Our AG was first a District 42 Senator, and a former Insurance Commissioner and NDGOP Vice Chair also got his start in 42.

      That is also not to say they don’t bring good ideas and energy, which is needed. I am polar opposites of most these three’s political philosophies, but Kylie has the right idea here with a cap (even though the $25 mill is thrown in, which is not good), and its nice to see she isn’t afraid to go right after this issue right out of the blocks. Corey gave Jaeger a good run during the Secretary of State race a few years back and actually made him work a bit at getting reelected (even though the results didn’t necessarily show it that), and that was a good thing for the electoral process. Mac is arrogant, but is doing something right to be placed in a leadership position at his age. No matter what happens these three have a bright future ahead.

      • ec99

        “recent UND grads”
        Not grads, students. Most UND grads are long gone.

  • Captjohn

    Rep. Oversen, the board of higher ed and Dr. Shirvani should reread Article VIII of the North Dakota constitution. Section 2,5 and 6 sub-section 6 parts d and e are especially appropriate. The legislature not only has the right it has the duty to set tuition. It also has the duty to appropriate all of the money the universities spend. I don’t know when we started giving legislative duties away but at some point the legislature needs to retrace their steps.
    I would welcome a court case over this issue. Dr. Shirvani might be able to word it so the result would be narrow in scope but he would lose. He may also lose some of the perogatives the legislature has passed out over the years.
    If anything Oversen’s bill should force the legislature back to it’s constitutional responsibility of setting tuition and appropriating the citizens money.

  • Spartacus

    If beauty, brains, charm and talent, in that order, are really the keys to success for young ladies then she’s got a very bright future!!

  • AV

    Now, “free market” Rob wants govt price-controls on goods and services; e.g., education?

    • Citizen opinion

      Your comment is based on a false premise. There is nothing “free market” about the out of control bloated government bureaucracy known as higher education. It seems to me that Rob wants some common sense government price controls exercised on this government bureaucracy that doesn’t responsibly nor ethically spend taxpayers hard earned dollars.

      • AV

        I didn’t claim that higher education market is a free-market.

        I suggested that Rob pretends to be “free market,” but only when prices match his expectations. When they don’t, he rushes to the position that govt. price-controls are the answer.

        And why the over-emotional response? Can you back up your claim that higher-education spending is “out of control,” or that this spending is neither responsible nor ethical?

        Also, wouldn’t price-controls lead to the possibility of the best teaching and research staff moving to universities, or industries, that will pay them what they are worth?

        • Citizen opinion

          Actually, you did infer that the higher education market is a free market by stating: “Rob wants govt price-controls on goods and services; e.g., education” – You failed to differentiate the fact that North Dakota higher education is a bloated out of control GOVERNMENT BUREAUCRACY. Rob wants this out of control GOVERNMENT BUREAUCRACY known as higher education to participate in a little thing known as FISCAL SANITY by the GOVERNMENT which funds it using TAXPAYERS hard earned dollars. GOVERNMENT price controls seem to be the only answer to ND higher eduaction’s fiscal INSANITY since it is an out of control GOVERNMENT RUN bureaucracy. GOVERNMENT price controls henceforth seem to be the only answer here, do they not?

          Actually, I can back up my claim that higher Ed spending is out of control and irresponsible and unethical: Recent audits at DSU, UND and NDSU are such examples. Take the time to read through them and you’ll find plenty of examples of fraud, abuse and waste of taxpayers hard earned money. Also how about the fact that higher Ed administrative spending has been steadily skyrocketing, students don’t seem to be benefiting, horrendous students results ( or better yet lack thereof) are being realized.

          And to your claim that price controls (aka FISCAL SANITY) would results in the best teaching and research staff leaving for other universities, no offense, but the best teaching and search staff already work at other universities! If you have a choice to work at Harvard, Yale, Cornell, Notre Dame, etc., would you choose to work at UND, NDSU? I wouldn’t think so.

          • two_amber_lamps

            Citizen opinion > AV


          • AV

            You know that most of their revenues come from their customers, right? So there is definitely a market, it just might not be particularly free. But when Rob advocates the govt. stepping in to further coerce that market, it is inherently an anti-freemarket position.

            And your claim of them being “out of control govt run bureaucracies” is just lunacy. What percentage of their revenue is lost due to fraud and unethical behavior (and by non-partisan standards)?

            Also, there are thousands of colleges and universties, so there is a (pay-)scale. If staff salaries became less competitive, there are many, many other places to work at.

    • Rob

      These are government institutions, so they are inherently the antithesis of the free market.

      What I’d rather do is stop subsidies for tuition so that a free market in higher education can actually exist.

      • AV

        They are independently run, which is what you’re rallying against in your other thread.

        Bringing them under direct govt control, rather than as an individual entity that still gets most of its revenue from its customers, is an anti-freemarket position.

        As noted earlier, your position on this is not free-market, but central-planning.

  • ec99

    Just out of curiosity, what percentage of the budgets of UND and NDSU are covered by state appropriations?

    • Rob

      About 1/3.

      • ec99

        OK. The last figure I had heard for UND a few years ago was 22%.