North Dakota Student Loan Debt Has Increased 125% At NDSU, UND


According to the Grand Forks Herald, student loan debt accumulation has increased dramatically over the last decade:

In the 2010-2012 school year, undergraduate and graduate students at UND and North Dakota State University borrowed an average of $7,855 in a year, according to the university system report released Friday. That’s up 125 percent over the past decade.

For a comparison, the Midwest inflation rate in that same period was 27 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“The increase indebtedness is due to a number of factors, including students’ ability, starting in 2007, to borrow more than previously allowed, and the rapid increase in tuition rates,” writes reporter Jennifer Johnson, but that’s a little misleading. Most students aren’t in the habit of borrowing more than they need. They’re going into debt to finance a degree. If tuition weren’t also skyrocketing, they wouldn’t need to borrow more no matter what the borrowing limits.

Of course, tuition no doubt increased because raided borrowing limits provided the market elasticity, proving once again the vicious cycle between tuition subsidies and tuition increases. The more we subsidize tuition, the more expensive it becomes.

But what’s really bad is that even as tuition, and thus indebtedness, goes through the roof the value of the degrees the students are purchasing isn’t increasing:

UND alumni living in North Dakota made an average salary of $36,862 a year in 2012, said the UND report, which surveyed those graduating from December 2009 to August 2010. The report came out in May. Those living in Minnesota make an average $43,023. Those living in other states make $48,174.

The same study also broke down salaries by schools within the university, and it’s pretty much as expected: Graduates of the School of Engineering and Mines and the School of Medical and Health Sciences make more than graduates of the School of Education and Human Development.

But it also shows that first-year salaries have not kept up with inflation for many. While engineering graduates have seen salaries grow 11 percent between 2000-2001 and 2009-2010, inflation in that period was 20 percent. Med school graduates have seen salaries grow 4 percent. Education graduates have seen salaries grow 23 percent. Aerospace graduates have it the worse; they’ve seen their salaries grow less than 1 percent.

In short, students are paying far more (and accumulating a lot more debt) for degrees that are, frankly, worth less.

But here’s a question: Why has tuition gone through the roof? The primary purpose of state universities is to provide affordable higher education. The taxpayers subsidize these institutions so that, in turn, they can provide cost-effective degree programs. Given the growth in tuition (not to mention fees) we know the cost-effective part isn’t true any more. And, given the lavish investment North Dakotans have made into the university system, we know it’s not due to a paucity of public funding:


What you’re looking at is a 150% increase in total higher education appropriations (assuming Governor Dalrymple’s budget recommendations for the coming biennium are approved by the legislature, which they probably will be with little change) and just an 8% increase in enrollment.

Our per-student funding of higher education has gone through the roof. But tuition has also gone through the roof. So where is all this additional money going? Why isn’t this increase in taxpayer spending holding tuition down?

The answer, of course, is because the university system isn’t prioritizing students. The money is being spent on bloating university payrolls. As we can see from this chart, non-instructional employees in the university system has grown 40% over the last decade versus just a 3.5% increase for instructional employees:

graph (1)

Campuses are getting bigger. The perks and paychecks for faculty and administrators are getting more lavish. The sports programs are bigger than ever. But it’s all a bubble, being inflated by heavy taxpayer subsidies and staggering amounts of student loan debt.

Our state universities – again, started to provide cost-effective education for the students of this state – are providing educations that are increasingly overpriced while subsidizing a high-on-the-hog existence for the university system elite.

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

    The problem is, you’re viewing universities as if education were their mission. It is just a pretext for generating revenue streams and establishing sports entertainment centers. Follow the money and you’ll see the priorities. Administrators and coaches, those who never spend a minute in a classroom, make the biggest salaries. In terms of today’s dollars, UND’s Kelly after four years was making 50% more than Clifford after 24. Then throw in president’s houses, $18 million parking ramps, proposed $20 million+ indoor practice facilities, and you’ll see that students are simply patsies: high fees, low salaries, massive debt.

    • Rob

      This, sadly, is 100% accurate.

    • ec99

      My bad on the calculation of Kelly’s salary. It’s actaully double what Clifford was making in his last year at UND. Sorry.

    • two_amber_lamps

      I am SO glad I obtained my degree back in the 90’s when tuition at a state school was still affordable. College students these days have my pity… they’re being yoked with debt most often NOT commensurate with the education/opportunities afforded by a degree… which Obamanistas and their ilk dilute the value of such by making it virtually a requirement to obtain to get a simple job such as a manager at a McDonalds.

      • ec99

        Now, add to the tuition the fees universities levy with such joy. The UND Wellness Center was built at student expense; if you were a sophomore when the collection of fees began, you never got to use the place. Even a liberal arts college like William and Mary charges students $1000 a year which goes directly to the althletic department. This has now been adopted by departments who nail students for money which tuition should have covered.

    • opinion8ed

      Excellent post

  • RandyBoBandy

    You honestly hate higher education don’t you?

    • Rob

      No, I think education is wonderful.

      I hate the way we’re doing higher education in North Dakota and nationally, and the numbers are on my side. We’ve created the bubble which now has students paying more and getting less.

      How is that defensible?

      • two_amber_lamps

        Particularly when the “education bubble” may well spell another destabilization to an already tottering economy.

        Or maybe it’s just another means to an end….

      • RandyBoBandy

        In regards to these numbers that you speak of, I would like to see some additional data on how those graphs you posted were made. A lot of times, “non-teaching,” staff represent graduate students who teach classes and grade assignments. If this is the case for your graphs, you should actually be in favor of that trend because graduate students aren’t highly paid, tenure eligible employees. So before I rant anymore, could we see the data behind those graphs?

        • Rob

          The spending graph was taken from a report protested by legislative council.

          The staff graph I created from data obtained by Legislative Council for Rep. Bob Martinson.

          And grad students who teach would be included in the instructional staffing.

          The data speaks for itself,

    • ec99

      After having posted on blogs for a long time, I’ve learned that when you can’t argue a point, the word “hate” becomes your default weapon.

    • two_amber_lamps

      Nice leftist hate-speak argument…


      • RandyBoBandy

        Well when it seems that nearly half of any postings are the same redundant rants about how higher education wastes money, which it undoubtedly does, one might get the impression that the author really hates it.

        • two_amber_lamps

          Glad you admit to indulging in a hackneyed leftist hate-speak argument.


        • yupyup

          Ignore people like the two_amber_lamps. They can’t engage in a coherent argument, so they grab onto incoherent speeches about how everyone else is a Communist, Leftist, Stalinist, Maoist, etc. etc. etc.

        • Goon

          I think there’s some merit to what Rob is saying. The ND college system has become it’s own animal that is bilking 100,000,000’s Millions of dollars from the state tax payers and a lot of the programs at the state schools could stand on their own without a lot of money from the tax payers.

        • Rob

          Or maybe the author thinks the wasteful ways is really important.

          I think the way the taxpayers and students are getting bilked by higher Ed is worth talking about. This is a real and ongoing problem.

  • Kevin Flanagan

    Why is big education preying on the vulnerable?

  • Waski_the_Squirrel

    The loans and debts separate the real world from the people paying for it. Our wants are huge, but we don’t like to pay for them. In my life, this explains the car I drive and my small house. The nice things I own were paid for through my savings: I sacrificed my own money for them and felt the pain.

    When students pay with debt, they don’t feel the pain. They are insulated from the true cost, so they expect more. When we have to pay for things, we put up with far fewer amenities than we do when someone else pays (or it feels like someone else pays).

    We value things far more when we have to pay for them, and our expectations are far more realistic.

    • ec99

      Most people want the amenities but not the bill for them, which is why consumer debt is over a trillion dollars. In Grand Forks, a few get their whims satisfied (events center, wellness center, golf course…) by getting everyone else to pay for them.

      • Rob

        Not just consumer debt, its why the national debt is the way it is.

        We want lots of government, buy we don’t want to raise taxes to pay for it.

  • sbark

    Welcome to the 21 century version of the Company Store……..perpetual indebtedness, never a good enogh job to get free of the student loan debt………
    Tell me the Dem’cat party wont or does not expect anything in return…….

  • guest

    it’s too bad these kids cant graduate and get a job at the college they just overpaid to go to. i’d bet theyd have their loans paid off mch faster.

    • Rob

      Let’s not give them any ideas.

  • Dlao

    Everyone of those students knows the cost before they set foot on campus and the average salary that degree will get them. They choose to take on that debt, so I do not feel sorry for any of them. There are a lot of good paying jobs that require no University degree, just hard work and showing up in the morning, which sadly, a lot of people these days do not want to do. To many young people these days think a degree lets you start out at the top.