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With college tuition rates nationwide on the rise, finding an affordable college or university may seem impossible. But North Dakota values a good education and works hard to provide its residents with a variety of funding opportunities to help them achieve their college dreams. With state financial aid packages and several privately-funded programs available, earning a college degree in North Dakota can be downright cheap compared to other states.
The most popular undergrad majors out of the 100 offered at North Dakota State University include health professions (such as pre-pharmacy) and engineering. About 60 percent of students receive grants or scholarships, which don't have to be repaid, with an average award of more than $4,600. Families with incomes under $50,000 generally receive much more than that. NDSU grads who took out loans average $30,000 in college debt. The school administers a variety of grants, loans, and work-study programs, and the career center also posts jobs that are open to any student, with no requirement to prove need. Many departments have their own endowed scholarships, with the College of Health Professions awarding about 200 scholarships a year.
Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission
CAG Score 95.8
Starting out as the Dickinson Normal School in 1918, Dickinson State College is now the No. 4 regional public college in the Midwest, as ranked by U.S. News & World Report (2015). Incoming full-time freshmen are eligible for the following merit-based scholarships: The Centennial Scholarship ($2,200), Heritage Scholarship ($1,500), and the Cornerstone Scholarship ($1,100). The university also has scholarship programs for individuals employed in North Dakota's energy industry and Fine and Performing Arts majors, among others. Incoming freshman with stellar academic records can apply for the Theodore Roosevelt Honors Leadership Program, a student-driven program focused on decision making, problem solving techniques, and character development.
Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission
CAG Score 95.5
As a public school, University of North Dakota charges lower tuition and fees to state residents, with Minnesotans benefiting from reciprocity agreements. And students from 22 states that participate in the Midwest Student Exchange Program or Western Undergraduate Exchange are charged 40 percent less per credit than other non-residents. Freshmen with a 3.5 GPA and an 1100 on the SAT receive automatic awards of $1,000. Those automatic scholarships go as high as $12,000, depending on the SAT score and GPA. UND's Cultural Diversity Tuition Waiver, meanwhile, gives freshmen and transfer students from under-represented groups up to $5,500 per year. Students must have a 3.0 GPA and 1020 SAT score to apply. Waivers are granted based on when applications are received.
Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission
CAG Score 93.2
North Dakota is a transfer-friendly state for college students. The state education system offers a transferable core of lower division courses known as the General Education Requirement Transfer Agreement, statewide common course numbering, and statewide guaranteed transfer of associate’s degrees.
North Dakota’s General Education Requirement Transfer Agreement (GERTA) is a set of general education courses that are guaranteed to transfer between the state’s university system campuses and tribal colleges. Students can complete the 36 semester hour plan and the general education requirements of their institution, and will be considered to have completed all lower division general education requirements for a transfer institution.
Along with the GERTA, North Dakota’s transfer policy offers statewide guaranteed transfer of associate’s degrees. Associate of arts and associate of science degrees will fulfill all lower division general education requirements.
With statewide common course numbering, North Dakota institutions make it easier to transfer coursework among colleges, universities, and private colleges. Courses with common transferable content will have the same name, number, and common course descriptions.
To learn more about individual articulation agreements developed by North Dakota university system institutions, visit the North Dakota University System guide.
There are numerous funding opportunities for students who wish to earn their college degree from a North Dakota school. Several private and public non-profit organizations offer scholarships, grants, and tuition waiver and loan forgiveness programs that help make college affordable in the Peace Garden State. While nothing is cheap (certainly not a good college education), if you do your homework, a diploma from a North Dakota college will not burden you with student loans.
Begin by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, commonly referred to as the FAFSA. Then, explore the North Dakota University System website to learn about the various state-sponsored programs that can help you reach your college goals. You will find plenty of information there, such as how to choose a college or university and a tuition and fee estimator. It’s also a good place to find grants and scholarship programs for which you may be eligible.
Summary: This grant is for students who are enrolled in undergraduate programs that support the mission and recruitment needs of the North Dakota Department of Transportation (NDDOT). Awards can be up to $2,000 a year and are renewable. Paid summer internships are also available for grant recipients. Grants can only be applied toward a North Dakota college or university. After they graduate, recipients are required to work for the NDDOT for a period of time that is at least equal to the grant study period.
Eligibility: You must be enrolled in a relevant program of study, such as (but not necessarily limited to) civil or construction engineering, diesel technology, or engineering technology.
How to Apply: Applications are distributed to qualified North Dakota state colleges and universities. Inquire at the financial aid office of the institution you plan to attend, or download the form and submit it to the college or university of your choice.
Summary: Recipients can expect grant awards of up to $1,500 each year that they qualify. Money can be applied only toward a college degree at a North Dakota college or university. Eligibility is limited to eight semesters of full-time enrollment or the attainment of a bachelor’s degree, whichever comes first. This is also sometimes referred to as the State Grant Program.
Eligibility: In addition to being a citizen of the United States and a North Dakota resident, you must meet the following criteria:
How to Apply: Submit a completed FAFSA to: North Dakota University System, 600 E. Boulevard Ave., Dept. 21, Bismarck ND, 58505-0602. The priority deadline for this grant may not be the same as the deadline imposed by the college or university you wish to attend. Call 701-328-4156 for more information.
Summary: This scholarship is supported by America’s Farmers and the Monsanto Fund and administered through the National FFA Scholarship program. Applicants do not have to be members of the Future Farmers of America (FAA) to be eligible. Qualified applicants can receive up to $1,500 each. However, the scholarship is not renewable.
Eligibility: You must be a resident of one of 40 states, including North Dakota. Find out if your county is part of the program from their website. You must also meet the following requirements:
How to Apply: Visit their website.
Summary: This scholarship is for high-achieving graduating high school seniors who have a demonstrable history of taking academically challenging courses during their high school career. Awards can be up to $1,500 each year and can only be applied toward four-year baccalaureate programs offered in North Dakota colleges.
Eligibility: You must meet the following criteria:
How to Apply: Complete and submit the application with the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction.
Summary: The North Dakota Community Foundation administers a wide range of scholarship programs that benefit students enrolled in different degree programs, such as nursing, journalism, petroleum engineering, and veterinary medicine. Awards vary greatly and depend on an applicant’s unmet needs and the availability of funds.
Eligibility: Each scholarship has its own set of requirements, which you can find at their website.
How to Apply: Each scholarship program has its own application procedure. Visit the program’s website for information.
Summary: A program of Scholarship America, the North Dakota Dollars for Scholars administers several funding opportunities for students in different situations. These would include current college students pursuing four-year baccalaureate degrees, those attending a vocational or trade/technical school, and graduate students. Qualified applicants who graduated with high honors can receive awards as high as $10,000.
Eligibility: Each scholarship has its own set of eligibility requirements. Visit the website to see for which one(s) you may qualify.
How to Apply: After you create an account on their website, you can apply for scholarships online.
Summary: This funding opportunity is open to undergraduate and graduate students who are enrolled members of a federally-recognized Indian tribe. Awards of up to $2,000 per year are available. Scholarship is based on merit (for applicants with a 3.50 GPA) or unmet need (for applicants with a cumulative GPA of 2.0 – 3.499).
Eligibility: Applicants also must be:
How to Apply: Download and fill out the application and submit as instructed.
Summary: This merit-based scholarship program awards full-tuition benefits to qualified high school graduates who plan to pursue their first undergraduate degree within the state. Scholars may receive the award (as long as they continue to meet the award requirements) for up to 8 semesters or until they graduate, whichever comes first. Additional stipends of up to $2,000 per year are also available. However, receiving the full-tuition benefit does not automatically mean you will also receive the stipend.
Eligibility: You must meet the following requirements:
How to Apply: Students who meet the eligibility criteria are automatically considered for this scholarship by the North Dakota college or university to which they are applying. No separate application is necessary. Funds are disbursed directly to the enrolling institution.
Summary: Applicants must be pursuing an engineering degree (such as mechanical, environmental, or electrical engineering) or enrolled in a mining-related program (such as geology, metallurgy, or mineral processing). Awards can be up to $2,750 a year and can be renewed for another year.
Eligibility: You must be a:
How to Apply: Visit the organization’s website. You can also call 303-948-3300 for more information.
Summary: This scholarship is open to undergraduate and graduate students who have demonstrated a long-standing commitment to peace and justice. Awards can be up to $5,000. A personal interview in Minneapolis will be required for scholarship finalists.
Eligibility: Applicants must have a demonstrable commitment to peace and justice. This can mean having taken on a leadership role in an organization that focuses on peace and justice, or having completed specific projects that deal with these issues. Applicants must also be a resident of (or currently enrolled in a school in) Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, or Wisconsin.
How to Apply: Instructions can be found on their website.
Summary: This program is for health care professionals who are willing to practice in Health Professional Shortage Areas within the state. Physicians can receive up to $100,000 in loan repayment. Qualified professionals can enter into an agreement for up to five years. Payments are paid directly to the lender and made at the end of each 12-month period of service.
Eligibility: The following health care professions will be considered:
How to Apply: Applications are available at their website. Send completed applications to: North Dakota Primary Care Office (Office of Public Health Systems and Performance), 600 E. Boulevard Avenue, Dept. 301, Bismarck, ND 58505. You can also call 701-328-4908 for more information.
Summary: The State Health Council established this program to attract dentists to practice in underserved areas in North Dakota. Loan repayment amounts can be up to $100,000 and are made at the end of every 12-month period. Dentists are required to maintain a full-time practice while they are receiving benefits from the program.
Eligibility: Dentists must serve in one of the following:
How to Apply: An application is available from their website.
Summary: Qualified applicants who are employed in approved STEM-related fields in North Dakota can receive up to $1,500 a year in student loan forgiveness. Benefits are capped at $6,000. Not all recipients will receive the same awards.
Eligibility: The following criteria must be met:
How to Apply: The application process can be found at the North Dakota University System website. Provide all the required information and documents. The date your application is judged to be complete will be the date used for priority funding purposes.
Summary: Teachers who are licensed to teach in North Dakota schools may be eligible for up to $3,000 in loan forgiveness every year if they qualify for this program.
Eligibility: Educators must teach in a North Dakota school at a grade level or in a content area that has been identified as a teacher shortage area by the Department of Public Instruction.
How to Apply: Directions for applying are at the website.
Summary: Doctors of Veterinary Medicine (preferable food animal veterinarians) with outstanding student loans are encouraged to apply. Qualified professionals can receive up to $80,000 in loan forgiveness and can sign up for two-, three-, or four-year service obligation contracts.
Eligibility: You must:
How to Apply: Download the application and follow the directions.
Summary: Qualified members of the North Dakota National Guard can receive up to a 25 percent tuition waiver that can be applied to any state college or university in North Dakota. Guard members must apply for this benefit every year or term.
Eligibility: You must:
How to Apply: Obtain a certificate of satisfactory performance from the office of the adjutant general and give it to the North Dakota college or university you plan to attend.
Summary: Applicants must be a dependent of a North Dakota veteran who was killed, totally disabled, or declared missing action. Qualified dependents will be exempt from paying any college tuition and fees for up to 45 months.
Eligibility: You must be accepted to an accredited baccalaureate or certificate program offered in a college or university in North Dakota. Tuition waivers cannot be used in out-of-state institutions.
How to Apply: Contact the financial aid office or veterans services department of the college or university you plan to attend.
Summary: Nine Midwestern states currently participate in this exchange program: Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Wisconsin. More than 100 colleges and universities in these states are part of the program, making it possible for students to attend out-of-state institutions without paying steep non-resident tuitions. Out-of-state students attending public colleges are charged no more than 150 percent of in-state tuition. Private universities participating in the program offer a 10 percent discount on their tuition rates for qualified non-resident students. Students can save up to $5,000 every year depending on the school they attend and the program they pursue.
Eligibility: You must be a resident of one of the nine states and accepted to an approved degree program in a participating college and university.
How to Apply: All participating institutions have an MSEP program administrator. Inquire at your school for information. Some participating schools may have additional requirements.
Summary: Under this program, students from North Dakota can attend a Minnesota public institution and pay resident tuition fee rates. (The same holds true for Minnesota students attending a North Dakota college.) Students must enroll in programs that have been approved under the reciprocity agreement.
Eligibility: You must be accepted into an approved program and maintain a full-time enrollment.
Summary: This program gives students from North Dakota access to dentistry, optometry, and veterinary medicine programs that are not offered in North Dakota colleges. Qualified students pay resident tuition even if they attend an out-of-state school. The state government pays the host college a support fee. There is no service requirement attached to this program.
Eligibility: Applicants must be accepted into a program offered by a participating college or university and maintain a full-time load according to the requirements of the program.
How to Apply: Download the application from the NDUS website and follow the instructions. Call 701-328-2906 for more information.
Summary: This is a tuition-reciprocity arrangement among states that are part of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE). Master’s, graduate certificate, and doctoral students who are residents of WICHE member states can enroll in more than 400 programs offered at 60 colleges and universities. For the school year 2015-2016, students saved an average of $14,637.
Eligibility: You must be a resident of a WICHE state and accepted into an approved graduate-level program offered by a participating out-of-state institution.
How to Apply: As long as you know that the college or university of your choice is a participating institution, you can apply directly to their graduate studies department and identify yourself as a WICHE WRGP applicant. You must meet all the admission requirements of the receiving school.
Summary: Under this program, students from participating WICHE states can request a reduced tuition rate of 150 percent of resident tuition at participating colleges and universities. These states include: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wyoming, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Institutions have the right to limit WUE awards, so apply as soon as possible to increase your chances of getting into the program you want at a reduced rate.
Eligibility: You must be a resident of a WICHE state and accepted to a program offered by a participating out-of-state college or university.
How to Apply: If you know that the college of your choice participates in the program, ask the campus administrator for assistance in applying. Receiving institutions may have additional requirements, so inquire and apply early.
Finding an affordable North Dakota college or university to attend is just the first step toward earning your college degree. You must also find a way to live cheaply enough so you can stay in school, which can be more difficult if you’re raising your own child at the same time. Visit the official website of the North Dakota State Government for child care and referral services, emergency financial assistance, and health care providers, to name just a few.
You can also call 2-1-1 to speak to a trained and knowledgeable crisis volunteer who can refer you to the services you need and give you information about programs for which you may qualify. In North Dakota (and Clay County, Minnesota), the 2-1-1 national program is called FirstLink. No matter what type of help you need to live and stay in school in North Dakota, there is a state or privately-funded non-profit program that is ready and willing to help you.
Most colleges across the country require incoming first-time students to live in on-campus residence halls. North Dakota institutions are no exception. This arrangement comes with built-in advantages – you’re close to your classrooms, you have a variety of meal plans to choose from, and you’re pretty much assured of safety or assistance should you need it. However, few college scholarships include payment for housing, whether on-campus or not. One exception, though, is the North Dakota Scholars Program. If you qualify for it, you can use some of the money to help pay for on-campus housing. The same is true for other federal grants, such as the G.I. Bill or the Pell Grant.
More universities are also offering other types of on-campus housing options, such as two- or three-bedroom apartments and themed communities (for example, residences specifically set aside for science or engineering majors). Apartment-style housing comes with full kitchens, so you don’t have to enroll in a meal plan. Buying your own groceries and cooking your own meals can save you a significant amount of money over your college career.
Living on campus also spares you from having to shoulder the cost of owning your own car. You can compare the costs of on-campus living versus off-campus living with free online tools such as Calcxml.com.
Also, drop by your university’s financial aid office to find out if they have work-study programs or private scholarships for which you may qualify. The added funds could help you afford a convenient on-campus accommodation.
University administrators know that their students will, at some point, want to live off-campus. This is why many of them provide useful information (list of nearby apartments, bus/train schedules, neighborhood resources, etc.) that can help their students with the transition from on-campus to off-campus life. For example, North Dakota State University has an Off Campus Student Services office dedicated to helping commuter students.
You can also visit online apartment search websites such as WalkScore.com or MyApartmentMap.com. When navigating public websites such as these, be aware of scams. Stay away from rental deals that sound too good to be true.
Find out if your income qualifies you for a rental assistance program available from the North Dakota Housing and Urban Development. If you’re a full-time student, you may be subject to additional eligibility requirements, so contact them to find out. Visit their website or call 701-239-5136 for more information.
If this is your first time living on your own, your first utility bill might shock you. If you need help keeping warm in frigid North Dakota winters, you can turn to the North Dakota Department of Human Services (NDDHS) for help. NDDHS administers the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) that helps eligible residents pay for their utility bills. You can also take advantage of their other services at no additional cost, which includes furnace cleaning or replacement and minor climate-related repairs and weatherization services, such as insulation and weather stripping.
If you are facing a temporary financial setback – and a cold winter – the Energy Share Program of the Dakota Valley Electric Cooperative and its partners can help you with a one-time payment of your utility bill. This is not an on-going opportunity, so make sure you turn to them for help only when it’s absolutely necessary.
In many cases, college students can remain covered under their parents’ health insurance plan until they turn 26. However, if this is not possible for you and you plan to go to college in North Dakota, the North Dakota University System offers you an alternative. This plan is not free, but it does meet the requirements of the Affordable Care Act.
You can also find out if you qualify for Medicaid in North Dakota. There are a number of services that you can access for a nominal fee if you are eligible for this program – some might even be free. Visit this page to find a doctor or clinic anywhere in the state that accepts Medicaid clients. If you need dental services, there are also dental clinics that accept Medicaid patients or charge uninsured or under-insured clients on a sliding fee scale.
College life can be stressful. Most colleges and universities offer free counseling services to help their students cope with the academic, social, psychological, and financial challenges that come with this new phase of their lives. In North Dakota, both large universities (such as North Dakota State University) and small colleges (the Dakota College at Bottineau, for instance) offer their students wellness and counseling services that help keep them mentally balanced and emotionally sound.
The North Dakota Department of Human Services offers a child care assistance program that helps income-qualified residents pay for child care. Visit their website to find out more about the program and apply online if you qualify. As a parent, you want to make sure your child stays healthy and strong. As a college student on a limited budget, that may not be so easy to afford. See if your child is eligible to receive health benefits from the Healthy Steps Child Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Eligibility entitles them to a wide range of health services, which are made available at substantial discounts.
If your child is already in a feeding program in school or at day care, you can also enroll them in the Summer Food Service Program. This way, you’re assured that they will continue to eat nutritious meals even in the summer. In North Dakota, you don’t have to choose between raising a healthy child and earning your college degree. There is help available that will allow you to accomplish both goals simultaneously.
You can save a lot of money if you live off-campus by not owning a car. In the Fargo area, students can ride the Fargo Moorhead Metro Area Transit (MAT) for free by showing their student ID card. The University of North Dakota provides free shuttle bus service to facilitate student and faculty movement throughout its 548-acre campus.
Visit the student affairs office of your college or university and inquire about carpool services and free shuttle buses to popular nearby destinations. Also, ride-share programs such as Uber and Lyft do offer student discounts. Every little bit of savings can help.
For more than 30 years, the Great Plains Food Bank has been providing food to more than 300 pantries, shelters, and soup kitchens throughout North Dakota. If you are often skipping meals so you can stay in school, there is help available. Check out the list of North Dakota and Clay County food pantries that are supplied by the Great Plains Food Bank and find the organization closest to you. Whether you need a hot meal or a bag of groceries to bring home, these food shelves can help. There is even a Mobile Food Pantry program that delivers food to areas not served by a partner agency.
Your income may also qualify you to receive benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Their website has all the information you need to see if you qualify for the program, and you can apply online. An increasing number of college students throughout the country are going hungry. If you’re enrolled in a North Dakota college or university, you don’t have to be among them.
The cost of living in Fargo hovers around the national average. This is good news for college students pinching their pennies. Despite its relative affordability, however, you may still need some type of help as you pursue your college degree in a North Dakota college or university. When this happens, there are several organizations you can turn to for help.
You can find more programs and services by visiting the Social Services pages of Cass County. They have emergency assistance programs to help you get back on your feet after a temporary financial setback, as well as a program of preventive health care for children and medical and child care assistance.
Though crime rate is low in Bismarck, the cost of living is more expensive than Fargo, primarily because of higher housing costs. It often has a very low unemployment rate, which is good news for students looking to supplement their college budget. There is no shortage of programs offered by non-profit organizations and state departments to help Bismarck residents enjoy a safe, healthy, and purposeful life. Below are some of them.
There are additional programs and services available in Burleigh County for residents such as you and/or your family. Contact the organizations offering the programs or services you need to find out if you’re eligible and how to apply.
Home to the University of North Dakota, Grand Forks is a typical Midwestern college town; although with an undergraduate population of just around 11,000, it’s a bit small as far as state universities go. But living here is more affordable than living in the average American city, so that’s a definite plus. You will also find plenty of helping hands ready to reach out to you when you’re in a bind.
You can find more available programs from the Red River Valley Community Action website. They have a commodity supplemental food program, offer free legal aid, and can help you with minor weatherization repairs and emergency services.