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Governor is 'OK' with Tribal College bill
3 March 2007

BISMARCK (UTN) - The effort to gain support in the legislature for state funding to North Dakota's tribal colleges has earned the respect of Governor John Hoeven.

      "You've gone about it in the right way," said Hoeven to tribal college leaders during a meeting at the capitol in Bismarck.

Jim Davis and David M. Gipp
Discussing the Tribal College bill with Governor John Hoeven (back to camera) on March 1 are (from left) Jim Davis, president, Turtle Mountain Community College and David M. Gipp, president, United Tribes Technical College. United Tribes News photo.

      Representatives of the North Dakota Association of Tribal Colleges visited Hoeven March 1 as part of a campaign to secure funding for the educational costs of non-beneficiary students (mostly non-Natives) who attend tribal colleges.

      During the meeting Hoeven allowed that he "didn't see any problem" with the legislation that would appropriate $700,000 over the 2007-09 biennium.

      Tribal college presidents have secured support for the measure by appearing before legislative committees, visiting with lawmakers and higher education officials, and providing information to the press and media.

      If enacted it would be the first time state tax dollars are appropriated specifically for students who attend one of the state's five tribal colleges. Attempts to win approval for similar legislation have failed in previous sessions.

      "Let's make no mistake that the five campuses in question are public colleges," said Sen. Tim J. Flakoll, (R-Fargo), a tribal college bill co-sponsor, during a committee hearing. "If these same students attended one of our other public campuses in the university system, the state would be expected to bear our appropriate portion of the cost."

      Non-beneficiary students amount to seven percent of the approximate 2,600 students attending North Dakota's tribal colleges, or about 180 students. The proposed law would not pay the full cost of education. It would provide a per student payment of $2,000 per year, which is less than half of what the state spends to support college students in the North Dakota University System.

      "We have failed to realize that people who live on the reservations are North Dakota citizens too," said Rep. Jim Kasper (R-Fargo) another tribal college bill co-sponsor. "We need to embrace them as part of the state. The prime way that we have is through education and this is a way to do that."

      A surplus in the North Dakota treasury is cited as the main reason why lawmakers appear to be more receptive now. Two separate versions of the legislation have passed their chamber of origin by significant margins with bi-partisan support: 69 to 23 in the House and 31 to 15 in the Senate.

      Almost as gratifying to tribal college leaders is the parade of lawmakers who have signed on as co-sponsors and weighed in with their support during committee hearings. Rep. Tracy Boe (D-Mylo), referred to Turtle Mountain Community College, located in his district, as a "jewel" for the area. Other supporters are: Rep. Rodney J. Froelich (D-Selfridge); Rep. Dawn M. Charging (R-Garrison); Sen. Rich Wardner (R-Dickinson); Sen. Richard J. Marcellais (D-Belcourt); Sen. Joan A. Heckaman (D-New Rockford); Sen. John M. Warner (D-Ryder); Rep. Merle Boucher (D-Rolette); and Rep. Dennis E. Johnson (R-Devils Lake).

      While a tribal college funding bill appears to be well on its way toward passage, one question remains. Which pocket will the funds come from?

      The North Dakota Board of Higher Education supports the concept but prefers that the funding and administration come from elsewhere.

      "The single most important factor that will determine the success of North Dakota will be its human capital," said Mike Hillman, vice chancellor of the ND University System. "The tribal colleges serve areas of the state that we do not serve very well and assist in developing that human capital."

      The two bills that are viable options for providing the funding have been re-referred to the appropriations committees in either chamber.

      Meeting with Hoeven on March 1 were: Jim Davis, president of the ND Association of Tribal Colleges and president of Turtle Mountain Community College, Belcourt, ND; David M. Gipp, president of United Tribes Technical College; Phyllis Howard, executive director of the ND Association of Tribal Colleges; Cheryl Kulas, Bismarck, executive director of the ND Indian Affairs Commission; and Jim Laducer, president of Laducer and Associates, Mandan, ND.

      Others in tribal higher education who have testified on behalf of the tribal college legislation are: Laurel Vermillion, president, and Kathy Froelich, academic vice president, both of Sitting Bull College, Fort Yates, ND; Cynthia Lindquist Mala, president of Cankdeska Cikana (Little Hoop) Community College, Fort Totten, ND; and Russell Mason Jr., president of Fort Berthold Community College, New Town, ND.


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