College offers free courses to persuade high schoolers into academics, not oil

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North Dakota is rich, so rich that a state college that has benefited from the oil boom is now offering free scholarships to persuade their local high schoolers to choose academics over rigs.

Williston State College expects enrollment numbers to go through the roof after announcing it will offer free two-year courses to graduates from Williams County, which is ironically being paid for with oil money donated to trusts and education funds.

The college told the Star Tribune enrollment in academic subjects has declined in recent years, but interest in its vocational classes had sky-rocketed as high school graduates look to make big bucks on the Bakken oil fields.

The newspaper also reports the college, located in the middle of the Bakken formation in west North Dakota, is already looking to expand the scholarships offer to neighboring counties, such as McKenzie and Mountrail.

The scholarships include the cost of tuition, books and fees and are open to all local graduates, irrespective of when they left high school, according to the Williston Herald.

The funding for the scholarships is coming from a combination of the Alva J. Field Trust, the WSC Foundation and the state funding, all of which have been swelled by revenue from the oil fields.

The Herald reports that many of the area's local high school students are likely to take the college up on the offer, with senior Alyssa Wiedrich telling the newspaper: "Half of our class is going to WSC."

Oil tempts graduates

The move by the college is designed to counter high school graduates shunning college in favor of working on the oil fields, with the Star Tribune noting that teenagers can make twice the minimum wage just by working in the service industry in North Dakota, while those in the oil fields can take home six-figure salaries.

North Dakota is becoming an increasingly attractive proposition to college graduates as well, who are moving to the state to take advantage of salaries offered in the oil industry to help them pay off their student debts.

Fargo was name the best city for college graduates by Business Insider earlier this year, mainly because of its 3.3 percent unemployment rate.

And the figures show it is succeeding in attracting college graduates and other young adults, with 28.4 percent of people living in the city aged between 20 and 34, and 37.1 percent of the population having at least a bachelor's degree.

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