Every state in this region funds a loan forgiveness program to assist certain individuals with their college debts. These programs most commonly target help for graduates entering a specific profession such as education or health care.
In North Dakota, two features of the state’s economy have persisted for years now: some of the lowest jobless rates in the nation, and workforce shortages challenging individual employers and entire economic sectors.
“By most estimates, we have over 20,000 unfilled jobs,” notes North Dakota Sen. Brad Bekkedahl.
Would scholarships or a loan-forgiveness program — with some strings attached — help fix this mismatch between worker supply and demand? And which of these two options would work best? Those questions were explored during the legislative interim and will likely emerge again when lawmakers convene in early 2019.
At the peak of North Dakota’s oil boom, some schools in the western part of the state not only were employing teachers, but began housing them as well — in duplexes, triplexes or mobile housing units, Sen. David Rust recalls. This school-as-landlord idea has been one of the more dramatic actions taken in recent years to address the shortage of teachers.
More recently, housing costs have subsided in North Dakota’s oil country (“They’re still higher than we would like to see,” Rust says), but the lack of qualified teacher candidates persists there, as well as in many communities across the state.