By the time you read this we should be on our “crossover” break.

I’ve always thought the legislative session consisted of three periods: Period 1: The House acts on House bills, the Senate on Senate bills. The end of that period is Crossover. Period 2: The House acts on passed Senate bills, the Senate on passed House Bills. Period 3: Conference committees iron out the differences in bills passed by both houses.

If you’ve read or heard on TV about provisions in a bill passed by one of the houses, don’t count on that becoming law. That bill stills needs to go to the other house, where it may be passed as is, amended, or killed. If passed as is, it goes to the Governor for his signature or veto. If amended, the bill goes to conference committee where much can happen; it usually results in another vote in at least one of the houses. If it survives, that conference committee bill goes to the Governor for his signature or veto.

We have a long way to go before any bill becomes law.

Over the years I’ve written at length about K-12 education bills. This time I’ll spend some time on Higher Education. SB 2003 is the University System bill. It appropriates over $2.5 Billion dollars; over $650 Million is from the state’s General Fund.

In testimony we were told that the state pays about 25% of the cost of Higher Ed, tuition from students pays another 25%, and the remaining 50% comes from other sources (the feds, foundations, and a host of others).

To assist students in paying tuition, the state of North Dakota has over the years instituted a number of grants and scholarship programs. Allow me to list a few using 2019-2021 numbers. For ease of readership I’ll round them up to the nearest hundred thousand dollars:

$23,900,000–Student Financial Assistance Program (a non-repayable, needs-based grant for students with highest financial need)

$1,800,000–ND Scholars Program (provides full scholarships for top-ranked high school graduates)

$12,000,000–ND Academic and CTE Scholarships ($750 per semester for students meeting academic and technical criteria. Most high school students are very aware of these grants and take high school classes to qualify for this scholarship.)

$3,700,000–Professional Student-Exchange Program (for individuals attending veterinary school, dentistry, and optometry. None of North Dakota’s colleges or universities offer these programs, so the state subsidizes their tuition to attend a school in another state.)

A total of $48,500,000 in student financial assistance programs are provided to students in this state. An additional $7 Million is requested for the 2021-23 biennium.

Additional dollars are awarded to colleges and universities in the form of Challenge Grants. The institution must raise two dollars for every dollar the state gives them. The money may be used for scholarships or the advancement of academics such as an additional teacher in a specific area.

As you can see, our state wants its young adults to further their education and makes a significant contribution toward that end.

All of your District 2 legislators attend a weekly Wednesday morning bible study and fellowship. One of the activities we will be participating in is the 2021 Governor’s Prayer Breakfast. This will be a virtual event held on Thursday, March 11 at 7 a.m.

It will be so designed that you can go on-line to view it. More info will be coming in the next couple of weeks. Either Rep. Bert Anderson or Rep. Don Longmuir will provide that info in upcoming news articles.

Again, thanks for the privilege to represent you in state government. Feel free to contact me at drust@nd.gov with input or comments.

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