ND Legislature Hall Of Shame Week 4: Rep. Al Carlson

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This week’s Hall of Shame honoree is Rep. Al Carlson. Carlson is the sponsor of HCR3018 which would amend the state constitution to create a tuition entitlement for North Dakota students funded by the state’s Legacy Fund (which is, in turn, funded by a portion of the state’s oil extraction tax revenues).

Honorable mentions for the Hall of Shame go to the resolution’s co-sponsors Rep. Bill Devlin, Rep. Mike Nathe, Rep. Mike Schatz and Rep. Don Vigessa.

Here’s the pertinent text of the amendment:

Beginning July 1, 2018, on July first of each year, the state treasurer shall transfer ten million dollars of the earnings of the North Dakota legacy fund to a special fund in the state treasury known as the legacy scholarship fund. Money deposited in the legacy scholarship fund and the earnings of that fund may be expended only by legislative appropriation for legacy scholarships. Legacy scholarships may be awarded as provided by law but only to recipients of a North Dakota school district high school diploma who meet academic performance and other minimum standards established by law. Legacy scholarships may be awarded only for attendance at North Dakota state institutions of higher education.

One of the problems with higher education, both in North Dakota and nationally, is the run-away cost of it both to taxpayers and to students. Since 1978, college tuition has grown faster than any other expense in our economy. Faster than even health care:

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Normally price signals in the market place might have reined in some of this growth in cost. As college became more expensive fewer students would go, or students would find lower-cost alternatives, and the market would find some equilibrium. But thanks to government-backed student loans, and government grants, there has been plenty of easy money available to pay for tuition. That has created a bubble in the marketplace (not to mention a serious problem with student loan debt).

The bubble in the cost of higher education, and student loan debt, is as real in North Dakota as any other part of the country. Creating a $10 million/year fund for college tuition for North Dakota’s roughly 7,000 or so annual graduates wouldn’t only exacerbate that problem. To put it another way, we’d be pumping more air into the bubble. Far from helping students with increasingly expensive tuition, we’d be hurting them in the long run.

Tor that reason Carlson and his co-sponsors are this week’s Hall of Shame inductees.

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. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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