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Annual Economic Impact of North Dakota Tribal Colleges Estimated at $145 Million


December 21, 2020

The annual economic impact of the five North Dakota tribal colleges is estimated at more than $145 million, according to a study completed in July 2020.

Economic impact is based on operational costs, including payroll and other spending; student spending; and the increased earnings of graduates. The tribal colleges are public, non-profit institutions accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and are members of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium. The North Dakota tribal colleges serve about 3,000 Native and non-Native students per year and employ more than 750 faculty and staff members.

Since the early 1970s, the five colleges have provided higher education and cultural programming opportunities to students on tribal lands. They collaborate with the North Dakota University System to enhance academics, retention and transfer among institutions.

“Tribal colleges serve several roles,“ said Cynthia Lindquist, Ph.D., president of Cankdeska Cikana Community College and chair of the North Dakota Association of Tribal Colleges. “Through higher education, students prepare for careers that make them employable in high-demand jobs, and the ability to make a decent living is a life-altering step toward prosperity for the students, both on and off the reservations.

“At the same time as individual lives are being changed, tribal colleges emphasize the skill sets needed to advance North Dakota’s economy. Truck drivers, welders, teachers, nurses, social workers – our programs and majors prepare students to meet some of North Dakota’s most urgent workforce needs,” Lindquist said.

The study also showed that, for every dollar invested in tribal college education in FY 2018-19, students gain $3.40 in lifetime earnings, taxpayers receive $1.10 in added tax revenue and public sector savings, and society gains $3.40 in added income and reduced need for government services.

Established in 1994, the North Dakota Association of Tribal Colleges (NDATC) is led by the five tribal college presidents. The association provides a structure for collaboration, improved governance and planning toward economic progress for the tribal communities in North Dakota. The colleges, locations and presidents are:

• Cankdeska Cikana Community College, Fort Totten, Cynthia Lindquist, Ph.D.

• Nueta Hidatsa Sahnish College, New Town, Twyla Baker, Ph.D.

• Sitting Bull College, Fort Yates, Laurel Vermillion, Ph.D.

• Turtle Mountain Community College, Belcourt, Donna Brown, D. Ed.

• United Tribes Technical College, Bismarck, Leander ‘Russ’ McDonald, Ph.D.

The study was conducted by Economic Modeling Specialists International (EMSI), a Moscow, Idaho, labor market analytics firm specializing in higher education, business and community development.


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