Sharon Veerayah

Sharon Veerayah, an instructor and information systems specialist at United Tribes Technical College in Bismarck, runs through the classroom and testing instructions for computers during a staff orientation session on Aug. 15.

A new report shows the five tribal colleges in North Dakota contributed nearly $193 million to the state’s economy during fiscal year 2016.

The report, conducted by researchers at North Dakota State University's Department of Agribusiness and Applied Economic and the Center for Social Research, was released in June.

This is the second study of its kind completed by NDSU researchers. The first one was previously completed in 2012.

The North Dakota Association of Tribal Colleges commissioned the study to measure the combined impact of Cankdeska Cikana Community College in Fort Totten, Nueta Hidatsa Sahnish College in New Town, Sitting Bull College in Fort Yates, Turtle Mountain Community College in Belcourt and United Tribes Technical College in Bismarck.

The study measured the state and local economic impacts using the colleges' operations expenditures and student spending. It uses the same methods and analysis consistent with economic impact studies of the North Dakota State University system.

"The importance of this is that we’re able to quantify the economic contribution of these institutes of higher education on the economy," said Nancy Hodur, one of the researchers who prepared the report. "People are always interested in knowing what that number is just to use that as another metric of the importance of the tribal colleges and all the colleges and universities in North Dakota."

UTTC President Leander "Russ" McDonald said the report is important, because it shows the economic impact tribal colleges have on the communities where they are located.

"Our goal was to see what kind of impact we’re having," McDonald said.

According to the report, tribal colleges' direct spending totaled $65.1 million and the schools provided more than 800 jobs. UTTC generated 287 full-and part-time jobs.

UTTC's total economic impact grew to $59.6 million, an increase of $8.5 million compared to the report done in 2012.

“It’s important, especially as we try to build relationships with the Bismarck-Mandan community," McDonald said. "What I was hearing when I got here and I continued to hear in meetings that I attended, (was) that people have never been out here to United Tribes. And so, that goal of help recognizing our contributions to the community and the need for others to become more informed on exactly what we do."

In addition to the economic effects of the colleges, the study also included the social and economic effects of an education. Educational attainment is lower on Native American reservations than for North Dakota overall, according to the report, citing recent data from U.S. Census Bureau. Statewide, 4 percent of people older than 25 have some high school education but no diploma. On the state's reservations, that number is slightly higher, ranging from 6 percent to 15 percent.

"These students, no one in their family, their parents, their grandparents have received a college degree," McDonald said. "I think this work is vitally important to the existing generation and the generations to come, to turn that around ... while at the same time remembering their culture."

(Reach Blair Emerson at 701-250-8251 or Blair.Emerson@bismarcktribune.com)

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