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NDSU announces new free tuition program for 2024-25 school year

The program will begin at the same time as Minnesota’s North Star Promise scholarship program and will cover tuition and fees for eligible students.
Image by Justin Eiler (courtesy)
New North Dakota State University (NDSU) students are welcomed through the front gates.

North Dakota State University (NDSU) announced Nov. 9 they would offer free tuition to eligible North Dakota and Minnesota residents for the 2024-25 school year.

The program would cover tuition and fees for first-year, second-year and transfer students who are registered full-time, qualify for the Pell Grant and whose families make less than $80,000 annually.

According to Seinquis Leinen, the senior director of enrollment management at NDSU, this program is the first of its kind in North Dakota.

The program takes effect in fall 2024, the same time as Minnesota’s North Star Promise (NSP) scholarship program. Minnesota’s NSP program offers free tuition for University of Minnesota and Minnesota State colleges to students with a household income of $80,000 or less.

NDSU’s program currently offers free tuition until the end of spring 2025. According to Leinen, NDSU leadership wants to extend the lifespan of the program beyond the next academic year.

“Putting aside the fact that the funding is right now only committed for one year, I think there’s a lot of other great reasons that students should consider continuing to attend NDSU in the future,” Leinen said.

Unlike NDSU’s free tuition program, which is being offered to both North Dakota and Minnesota residents, NSP is only available to Minnesota residents.

Keith Hovis, a spokesperson for the Minnesota Office of Higher Education, said NSP is expected to benefit 15,000 to 20,000 students in its first year.

NDSU President David Cook said at a State Board of Higher Education meeting in June that Minnesota’s program “has catastrophic implications” for NDSU since Minnesotan students make up nearly half of the student body.

According to NDSU enrollment data, more than 45% of around 12,000 NDSU students in Fall 2022 were Minnesota residents. North Dakota residents made up 40% of enrolled students.

Now, Leinen said concern about enrollment is beginning to wane. She added that the free tuition program offered by NDSU provides an opportunity for Minnesotans who would benefit from a program like NSP but would like to go out of state.

Leinen said she hopes the similarities between the two programs will help Minnesota residents weigh their options easier when deciding where to attend college.

“We’re just excited to be offering something similar in case students want to make [attending] NDSU a reality,” Leinen said.

Shashank Murali, the president of the University’s Undergraduate Student Government (USG) said he was excited about NDSU’s program.

According to Murali, USG worked closely with state legislators to ensure the bill approving NSP was passed. He said he is glad that advocacy paid off in the form of similar programs in different states.

“I think everyone deserves the right to have access to higher education and this program does exactly that,” Murali said.

Alongside Murali, USG Vice President Sara Davis said she was not only excited that NDSU’s free tuition program would benefit Minnesota residents but also that North Dakota students would benefit as well.

“Any way that we can make college more affordable and more accessible for students I will pretty much be a fan of,” Davis said. “As a college student, I want to make sure that anyone who comes after me has a better experience than I do.”

NDSU was not the only college to announce a free tuition program this month. Concordia College at Moorhead announced on Nov. 2 they would fully cover tuition for students with a household income under $90,000 — a $10,000 higher income maximum than the NSP and NDSU programs.

Registration for NDSU’s free tuition program is now open for the 2024-25 school year. The NSP scholarship program automatically enrolls Minnesota students for consideration after filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or the Minnesota Dream Act application.

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