Tribal colleges contribute millions of dollars to North Dakota economy

Having five tribal colleges in the state means millions of dollars for the North Dakota economy. Last year tribal colleges generated $182 million in the state, according to a recently released report.

That was the total impact of direct and secondary spending by the colleges and their students identified in a report commissioned by the North Dakota Association of Tribal Colleges.

The report, published in February, measures the collective economic impact of the state’s five tribal colleges: Fort Berthold Community College, New Town; Turtle Mountain Community College, Belcourt; Cankdeska Cikana Community College, Fort Totten; Sitting Bull College, Fort Yates; and United Tribes Technical College, Bismarck.

The study, “Economic Contribution of North Dakota’s Tribal Colleges in 2012,” was prepared by Randal Coon, Dean Bangsund and Nancy Hodur, all with the Department of Agribusiness and Applied Economics at North Dakota State University, Fargo. Their analysis used similar methods and parallels economic impact assessments conducted over the past decade for the North Dakota University System.

According to the report, the five colleges collectively spent over $48 million in fiscal year 2012 for goods and services, and wages and salaries. These direct expenditures were analyzed for their economic effect in eight different sectors of the state’s economy. Over half, $29 million, went to households primarily for wages and salaries. Total employment at the colleges was 815 full-time and 209 part-time workers.

Using the North Dakota Input-Output Model, the authors estimated the secondary impact on the economy at $94 million, with the greatest result accruing in the households and retail trade sectors. Together, the direct and secondary economic impact was $142 million.

The report concluded that levels of business activity generated by tribal college expenditures would support an additional 392 secondary jobs in various sectors of the state’s economy. It noted that this economic activity would be expected to lead to increased sales and use tax revenues of $1.6 million, personal income taxes of $885,000, and corporate income taxes of $231,000.

The report said student spending for living expenses added to the economic impact. Expenditures by the five college’s 4,252 FTE students for personal items, recreation, books, supplies, and room and board amounted to $15.9 million for the 2011-2012 academic year.

Applying the North Dakota Input-Output Model to student spending produced a secondary economic effect of $23.6 million, a large share spent in the communities where the institutions are located, the report said, and some in larger cities and trade areas. The total economic impact from student spending was $39.6 million. The student section of the study also calculated sales and use tax and income tax collections, identifying another way tribal colleges contribute to the North Dakota economy.

The research was based on actual expenditures. The economic impact generated by the five during fiscal year 2012 came primarily from external sources in the form of federal grants and student financial aid. All are considered new dollars coming into the local and state economy.

North Dakota’s tribal colleges have been contributing to the state since 1969, when United Tribes Technical College, Bismarck, became the first inter-tribal institution in the nation to offer post-secondary training and education programs for American Indian students and their families. Those that followed within a few years in North Dakota are community colleges located on American Indian reservations.