State Highlights

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resources

WICHE is closely monitoring the outbreak of “SARS-CoV-2,” and the disease it causes, which has been named “coronavirus disease 2019” (abbreviated “COVID-19”). To inform and facilitate your response to a rapidly changing situation, WICHE has compiled the following set of resources, which will be updated as new information becomes available.

North Dakota

Year joined: 

North Dakota's students who studied out-of-state saved $2.7 million through WICHE Student Access Programs in 2018-19.

WICHE Student Access Program student savings and state return on investment graphic


  • Thousands of students from North Dakota have attended undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs in other Western states through WICHE’s Student Access Programs, saving millions of dollars, thanks to reduced tuition rates. In just one of the programs, the Western Undergraduate Exchange, North Dakota students and their families have saved over $39 million since 1988, when the state joined the program.
  • North Dakota has received funding to be part of numerous WICHE policy initiatives, including those focused on financing and financial aid, workforce policy, and other areas.
  • North Dakota has participated in WICHE initiatives related to distance education, workforce development, and behavioral health.

Programs and Participation

WUE Student Distribution from North Dakota

WUE Student Distribution from North Dakota

WUE Student Distribution to Alaska

WUE Student Distribution to North Dakota

North Dakota is active in all three WICHE Student Exchange Programs: the Western Undergraduate Exchange, the Professional Student Exchange Program, and the Western Regional Graduate Program. In 2018-19 North Dakota’s students and families saved over $2.7 million. North Dakota saved money, too, through not having to establish and maintain costly programs in a number of areas, including some in healthcare.

Western Undergraduate Exchange. North Dakota students have enrolled in undergraduate programs beyond North Dakota’s borders through the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) since 1988. In 2018-19, 447 students from North Dakota were enrolled in out-of-state programs at reduced rates (150 percent of resident tuition), saving $1.7 million in tuition and fees – the average student savings amounted to $3,550. In the last 10 years, students have saved over $13.7 million.

North Dakota benefits from WUE in another way: by receiving students from out of state. North Dakota’s institutions can choose how many out-of-state slots to offer and in which areas, allowing them to make the best use of their resources by accepting students in underenrolled programs. There’s a workforce benefit for the state, too, as students often stay in North Dakota after graduating. In 2018-19 North Dakota received 2,029 students through WUE.

Professional Student Exchange Program. North Dakota has sent 450 students to professional programs through the Professional Student Exchange Program (PSEP), with students studying in a host of critical fields, including dentistry, optometry, and veterinary medicine. In addition, in 2018-19 the state received 19 students and $469,934 in support fees from other Western states.

37% of North Dakota’s PSEP graduates (2007-16) returned home to practice. North Dakota does not contractually require them to do so.
Field # of
North Dakota students
Support fees
Dentistry 9 $235,575
Optometry 22 396,550
Veterinary Medicine 7 226,800
TOTAL 38 $858,925

Western Regional Graduate Program. North Dakota’s postgraduates also participate in graduate programs through the Western Regional Graduate Program (WRGP), which offers access to more than 700 high-quality, distinctive programs at some 60 institutions in all WICHE states. WRGP programs run the gamut, but emerging social, environmental, and resource-management fields are particular strengths, as are innovative interdisciplinary programs. In 2018-19 North Dakota sent 15 students to out-of-state institutions, while receiving 40.

WICHE’s Added Value

North Dakota gains added value from WICHE’s programs in policy, workforce development, technology, mental health, and other areas.

WICHE’s 9th edition of Knocking at the College Doorreleased in December 2016, projects U.S. trends in high school graduate populations through 2032.

There is an abundance of information on, including the publication and other reports, projections data, interactive data dashboards, recorded webinars and presentations, and North Dakota’s state profile, which indicates that:

  • North Dakota is currently producing about 7,400 high school graduates per year, but is predicted to have rapid increase throughout the projected years, increasing to about 9,800 by 2025 and then to 12,000 by 2032. 
  • Non-White public high school graduates are currently about 12% of all of North Dakota public high school graduates and are projected to become 32% of the total by 2032. The very strong increases predicted for high school graduates is indicated by recent strong growth among younger students, and could change depending on what unfolds with North Dakota's energy industry.  

Policy & Workforce Development

North Dakota has participated in projects supporting better-informed decision-making at the state level. WICHE initiatives have been sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Lumina Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York, Helmsley Charitable Trusts, the Ford Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education, and others. WICHE policy experts often visit the state to present or consult on a number of vital issues, including the state’s workforce needs and balancing the financial aid portfolio.

WICHE staffers have worked with North Dakota in a variety of areas. In August 2017, WICHE President Joe Garcia testified before the Legislature on postsecondary and workforce trends in North Dakota and how North Dakota compares to the WICHE region.

WICHE also seeks assistance and advice from policymakers, educators, administrators, and legislators. WICHE’s Legislative Advisory Committee (LAC), composed of legislator-members from each state—including Senator Ray Holmberg, Representative Bob Martinson, and Representative Mark Sanford from North Dakota—has been crucial in this regard. The LAC works to keep the commission’s Executive Committee and staff current on significant legislative issues related to higher education, provides input on WICHE initiatives, and advises on a host of issues. WICHE staff also serve the LAC by informing members about emerging policy issues in the West. 

Regional Academic Leadership Initiatives

Minot State University, the University of North Dakota, and Valley City State University are part of the Western Academic Leadership Forum (the Forum). Their official representatives are the chief academic leaders of the four-year institutions and their related system and state agencies, who address regional higher education issues and engage in resource sharing. The Western Alliance for Community College Academic Leaders (the Alliance) brings academic leaders of community colleges and technical schools and systems together with state governing and coordinating boards associated with two-year institutions to exchange ideas and information, share resources and expertise, and collaborate on regional initiatives. Williston State College is a member.


Several North Dakota colleges and universities are active participants in the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET), the leader in the practice, policy, and advocacy of technology-enhanced learning in higher education. WCET is widely recognized as an informative, reliable, and forward-thinking organization regarding the role of technology and innovation in higher education, and includes more than 350 institutions, state and systemwide higher education agencies, nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and corporations in nearly all U.S. states and many Canadian provinces. WCET members have access to trusted information on emerging trends, policies, and exemplars of successful learning technology innovation in practice. Key WCET activities include an annual meeting, leadership summits, national webcasts, the popular Frontiers blog, issue briefs, and email list-based discussions among members. Major topics of interest to the WCET membership include student and faculty success, the Internet of Things, managing e-learning, emerging technologies, broadband and learning innovation, and evolving policy issues. University of North Dakota’s Distance Engineering Undergraduate Degree Program (2004) and Dakota State University’s Student Retention Early Alert System (2008) won the WCET Outstanding Work (WOW) award, which recognizes effective and innovative uses of technology to address specific needs in higher education.

Mental Health

WICHE has worked with the Area Health Education Centers in North Dakota around improving community providers’ capacities to meet the needs of veterans, guard, and reserve military and their families. WICHE participated in training co-sponsored by the South Dakota and Nebraska AHECs to build community partnerships to serve veterans.

Other Initiatives

Interstate Passport is a program that facilitates block transfer of lower-division general education based on learning outcomes and proficiency criteria. It includes learning outcomes for nine knowledge and skill areas developed by faculty at institutions in multiple states as well as an academic progress tracking system for Passport transfer students designed by registrars and institutional researchers. The goal of the Interstate Passport is to eliminate transfer students’ unnecessary repetition of learning previously achieved.

State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA), SARA is a voluntary, nationwide initiative of states that makes distance education courses more accessible to students across state lines and makes it easier for states to regulate and institutions to participate in interstate distance education. The effort initially was funded by $3.2 million in grants from Lumina Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and is now supported by fees paid by institutions. The initiative is administered by the country’s four regional higher education compacts – the Midwestern Higher Education Compact (MHEC), the New England Board of Higher Education (NEBHE), the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) and the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) – and overseen by The National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA). States and institutions that choose to participate agree to operate under common standards and procedures, providing a more uniform and less costly regulatory environment for institutions, more focused oversight responsibilities for states and better resolution of student complaints. North Dakota was among the first WICHE/MHEC states to become a member of SARA in this reciprocal relationship.