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North Dakota student leaders oppose tuition freeze

A proposal to freeze tuition at North Dakota's public universities would seem to be popular with college students.

But student leaders at North Dakota State University came out against the bill on Tuesday.

"While students like myself always like to see a limitation to how much we have to pay in tuition, we do also understand that if we want to be able to graduate from our institution and have a good educational experience, we need to have the tools in order to make this achievable," testified Robert Vallie, a representative of NDSU student government.

Gov. Jack Dalrymple's budget recommendation caps tuition at 2.5 percent for four-year campuses and freezes it for two-year colleges.

House Bill 1301 from Rep. Corey Mock and Sen. Mac Schneider, both Democrats from Grand Forks, extends the freeze to four-year campuses and would cost about $19 million over two years.

Evan Andrist, representing the University of North Dakota student government, testified in favor of the bill, calling it an investment in the state's work force.

Kevin Black, NDSU student body president, said he and other student leaders have discussed the issue at length and have taken the stance that a modest tuition increase is in the best interest of students.

Before the university can freeze tuition, investments are needed to improve NDSU's student-faculty ratio and academic facilities, Black said.

NDSU student leaders also worry that a tuition freeze now could mean double-digit increases for future generations of students, Black said.

"We would love to freeze tuition, but eventually costs go up and we don't want a huge bubble to burst," Black said.

The state Board of Higher Education has taken a neutral position on the bill.

Forum Communications reporter Teri Finneman contributed to this report