North Dakota


North Dakota has a high overall education attainment rate compared to the rest of the nation and also sends a high percentage of their high school graduates directly to college. The universities and colleges produce more baccalaureate degrees than the national average and completion rates are also high. Unfortunately, many of the college graduates — especially those with four-year degrees — leave the state. One challenge for state leaders is to develop and strengthen policies that retain and attract more highly-education citizens, create a density of jobs for these workers and offer more competitive wages. North Dakota still will require a significant number of individuals with certificates and associate degrees, and policies to create incentives for older adults to enroll in such programs would continue the state’s strong economic growth.

The legislature has moved to respond to these needs in the past couple of years through policies related to financial assistance and career and technical education. Policymakers also should continue to partner with higher education and business leaders to ensure that graduates have the skills required to meet workforce demands and that jobs are available that require a range of skill levels.



How does North Dakota rank compared to the national average?

  • Adults 25-64 with college degrees: 10th (44% vs. 38%)
  • High school graduates going directly to college: 12th (67.9% vs. 63.3%)
  • STEM credentials awarded per 1,000 STEM employees: 2nd (94.4% vs. 54.4)
  • Credentials awarded per 1,000 18- to 44-year-olds with no college degree: 1st (58.4% vs. 37.6%)
  • Workers with college degrees earning low wages: 49th (31.6% vs. 22.9%)
  • Annual migration of college degree-holders per 100,000 22 to 64 year olds: 48th

North Dakota Data Profile

North Dakota Data PowerPoint

The college attainment rate in North Dakota is substantially higher than the national average. Growth in agribusiness, mining, and oil/natural gas extraction have attracted middle-skills workers to North Dakota. However, a substantial number of adults with bachelor’s and graduate degree holders are leaving the state, presumably for higher-paying jobs. The state might consider how to “deepen the roots” of the growth industries in their state. Further, diversifying within the industries that promote economic growth and bring in high volume of tax revenue might ensure that those industries remain prosperous, especially through boom-and-bust cycles.


Boosting College Completion has produced a comprehensive 50-state legislative database related to college completion and workforce development. The database will  grow as we continue to collect and analyze policies.

  • Convening the Legislative Management Study on Higher Education — H.B. 1033 (2011)
  • Study of Developmental Education Issues — H.B. 1036 (2011)
  • Concerning Approval of Institutions to Operate in North Dakota — H.B. 1092 (2011)
  • Clarifying Postsecondary Education’s Role in Workforce Training — S.B. 2056 (2011)
  • Career & Technical Education Scholarship, Academic Scholarship — H.B. 1400 (2009)


Check out the BCC database for a more complete summary of North Dakota’s policies. Click on the Menu arrow for additional options, such as printing the summary.

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Boosting College Completion has developed a policy profile for North Dakota based on an analysis of data and policies related to college completion and workforce development.

North Dakota Policy Profile

The North Dakota Legislative Assembly has focused on three critical educational domains: education efficiency and improvement, college and career preparation, and alignment between postsecondary capacity and workforce needs. The state has one of the fastest growing economies in the nation, excelling in the oil and natural gas industry. Data show that the state is producing a large number of adults with high-demand, high-wage credentials. However, the state might consider how to create the density of jobs in these industries that retain skilled workers. To most effectively meet workforce and economic development challenges, the legislature should consider:

  1. Evaluating whether policies and strategies focused on college affordability and college and career preparation improve degree attainment rates
  2. Examining how to retain the thousands of college graduates who have left the state in the last five years
  3. Leveraging investments that attract businesses to the state and, thus, improve the wage premium associated with a college degree
  4. Partnering with higher education and business leaders to ensure that postsecondary graduates have the skills required to sustain the growth of the North Dakota economy.

News & Updates


Legislative Study on Higher Education to meet on November 3-4, 2011. Bruce Vandal will testify to the committee on the second day. See the agenda for more information.

Policy Leaders


Sen. Tim Flakoll, Vice-chair, Higher Education Committee






Rep. RaeAnn Kelsch, Chair, Education Committee






Rep. Bob Skarphol, Chair, Higher Education Committee



North Dakota is participating in the following national initiatives that are related to postsecondary readiness, college completion and workforce development:

Common Core Standards Initiative

PARCC Assessment Consortium

SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium

Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Program(TAACCCT)


The following resources were produced by Boosting College Completion, state agencies and postsecondary systems.

North Dakota Data Profile

North Dakota Data PowerPoint

North Dakota Policy Profile

North Dakota University System Strategic Plan

2010 Accountability Measures Report: Investing in North Dakota’s Future


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