United Tribes News

Tribal College Bill Passed by Legislature
26 April 2007

BISMARCK (UTN) - North Dakota's tribal colleges have gained approval for a measure that will provide state funding to tribal colleges. The bill was passed by state lawmakers one day before the end of the 2007 Legislative Session.

      The legislation appropriates $700,000 over the next two years to help pay educational costs for non-beneficiary students, mostly non-Natives.

North Dakota's tribal college leaders
SMILE FOR SUCCESS: After years of trying, North Dakota's tribal college leaders were rewarded with passage of a measure to provide state funding for the colleges. On hand at the State Legislature April 24, from left: Laurel Vermillion, president, Sitting Bull College, Fort Yates, ND; Tom Disselhorst, legal counsel and David M. Gipp, president, both of United Tribes Technical College, Bismarck, ND; Chad Kramer, research analyst, ND Indian Affairs Commission, Bismarck, ND; and Phyllis Howard, executive director, ND Association of Tribal Colleges, Bismarck, ND. UTN Photo.

      When implemented, it will be the first time state tax dollars are appropriated specifically for students attending the state's five tribal colleges.

      Tribal Colleges typically receive nearly all of their funding from federal sources.

      North Dakota Governor John Hoeven has indicated his support. Plans are underway for a bill signing ceremony with members of the North Dakota Association of Tribal Colleges, who lobbied effectively for the bill's passage.

      "We've entered a new era with the State of North Dakota," said David M. Gipp, United Tribes Technical College President. "The state is truly beginning to work with the tribally controlled institutions of postsecondary education. This is a relationship that will have an impact on local communities where tribal colleges are located. And I believe it's a model relationship for other states with Indian Tribes and tribal colleges."

      Attempts to win approval for similar legislation had failed in previous sessions.

      Non-beneficiary students amount to seven percent of the approximate 2,600 students attending North Dakota's tribal colleges, or about 180 students.

      The new law will not pay the full cost of education. Given the number of students eligible, the measure will provide approximately $2,000 per year per student, which is less than half of what the state spends to support college students in the North Dakota University System.

      "North Dakota will see results that benefit the economy, the public and private four year colleges," said Gipp. "Ultimately more of our graduates will go on for more schooling at mainstream colleges."

      The tribal college bill received the endorsement of a host of state lawmakers who signed on as co-sponsors and weighed in with their support during committee hearings.

      The bill was sponsored by: Representatives Jim Kasper (R) Fargo, Tracy Boe (D) Mylo, Dawn Marie Charging (R) Garrison, and Dennis E. Johnson (R) Devils Lake; and Senators Tim J. Flakoll (R) Fargo, and Rich Wardner (R) Dickinson.

      In the closing days of the legislative assembly, the state's oil tax trust fund was tapped as the revenue source for the tribal college grants. To offset the amount appropriated, lawmakers added a provision saying the money would come from the state's share of tax revenue from oil produced on the Fort Berthold Reservation.

      Tribal College leaders who pushed for the legislation 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, Bismarck, ND; Cynthia Lindquist Mala, president of Cankdeska Cikana (Little Hoop) Community College, Fort Totten, ND; Laurel Vermillion, president of Sitting Bull College, Fort Yates, ND; and Russell Mason Jr., president of Fort Berthold Community College, New Town, ND.

      Others who worked for the bill's passage were: Phyllis Howard, executive director of the ND Association of Tribal Colleges; Cheryl Kulas, executive director and Chad Kramer, research analyst, both of the ND Indian Affairs Commission; Tom Disselhorst, legal counsel, United Tribes Technical College; Jim Laducer, president of Laducer and Associates, Mandan, ND; and Kathy Froelich, education director, Sitting Bull College, Fort Yates, ND.


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