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ND Tribal Colleges to receive state support
Workforce Development Programs Approved by Lawmakers and Governor
20 May 2013

BISMARCK (UTN) - The State of North Dakota has taken what appears to be an unprecedented step in funding tribal colleges.

      When the state's new fiscal biennium begins July 1, North Dakota will start providing state funding directly to the five tribal colleges within the state's borders.

Cankdeska Cikana Community College President Cynthia Lindquist, speaking April 30 at the State Capitol, flanked by supporters, from left, Sitting Bull College President Laurel Vermillion, Sen. Rich Wardner, bill sponsor, and United Tribes Technical College President David M. Gipp.

      A measure passed by the State Legislature in April and signed by the governor will provide $5 million in grant funding for workforce training over the next two years.

      With the lowest statewide unemployment rate in the nation, North Dakota urgently needs trained workers for its booming energy industry. Lawmakers connected the dots, creating an opportunity for people on the state's reservations where the poverty rate can exceed 33 percent.

      "North Dakota is blessed to have an economy with jobs," said Rich Wardner, primary sponsor of the legislation, during an April 30 gathering at the State Capitol to celebrate passage of the new law. "Now, one of the things we can do is help everyone, every citizen of the state."


      North Dakota has provided some financial resources indirectly to tribal colleges in the past. As citizens of the state, tribal students are eligible for state higher education grants. Over the past six years, a small quantity of state tax dollars supported non-Native students who attended tribal colleges. But until now, North Dakota had been like most states, providing little support for established institutions that have demonstrated their value reaching an underserved population of state citizens.

Jim Davis
Turtle Mountain Community College President Jim Davis

      "I congratulate the Legislature on being very courageous, because I view this as landmark legislation," said Cynthia Lindquist, president of Cankdeska Cikana Community College.

      Turtle Mountain Community College President Jim Davis said he was grateful that Governor Jack Dalrymple expressed his support for the work of tribal colleges and signed the bill.

      United Tribes President David M. Gipp said he believed this is the first time legislation of this kind has been enacted. There may have been some one-time state assistance to a tribal college but this is comprehensive in scope and clearly recognizes a state's ongoing responsibility to all of its citizens, he said.

      The workforce training law came from SB 2218. The focus will be on training to qualify students for jobs available in the state, and assist in establishing new businesses. The grants will be administered by North Dakota's Department of Commerce and divided equally among the five tribal colleges.

      "I truly believe this people-legislation will make a difference," said Lindquist. "We're going to come back in two years and demonstrate what we've done. We will show where people have been put to work and how we trained them, and how we hope to impact our poverty and unemployment rates."


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