North Dakota wants more workers, will offer more aid to students

May 15, 2019

The U.S. state with the nation’s lowest unemployment rate (2.3 percent as of March) will try to attract more skilled workers with $6 million worth of new scholarships and loan repayments. North Dakota’s HB 1171 seeks to address what many policymakers have said is the state’s No. 1 economic issue — workforce shortages.

Under the new law, a student could receive a loan repayment of up to $17,000 if he or she is employed in a “high demand” occupation (based on an annual state analysis of workforce trends and needs). The Skilled Workforce Scholarship Fund, meanwhile, will award individual students up to $17,000. To be eligible, students must be pursuing credentials in a high-demand profession, maintain a certain grade-point average, and, upon graduation, work in the state for a minimum of three years. Money for these new programs in North Dakota will come from a mix of state dollars and private-sector fundraising.

Along with North Dakota, four other Midwestern states had jobless rates in March of below 3 percent: Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wisconsin.