New scholarship hopes to keep ND oil workers, families in the region

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New scholarships meant to keep people in the Bakken region as it toils through an oil slump were awarded to three students this week.

Warren Logan, an oilfield worker who plans to enroll at Dickinson State University, is the first ever recipient of the Bakken U scholarship offered by the North Dakota University System, according to a press release from the school.

The award is aimed at "recently displaced oil workers, current oil industry workers, or spouses of oil workers," the scholarship page says.

The $5,000 scholarship will cover tuition, fees, books and supplies, room and board, and other miscellaneous expenses, according to the site.

 (Photo: Dickinson State University press release)

(Photo: Dickinson State University press release)

“Dickinson has given me so much since my wife and I relocated that leaving from an unexpected loss of employment is not an option," Logan, who's going for a degree in business administration, said in the news release. "Dickinson is where we have chosen to make our home. With a degree and a surplus of non-oilfield work, I know we would be able to continue in the community we have come to love.”

The oil industry is in a funk right now – after a boom that brought thousands of new workers to the once-sleepy region, the number of rigs in operation is down, as is barrel production. And in the fall, one of the country's largest oil companies said it would exit North Dakota.

The scholarship website says that a downturn in oil production shouldn't mean laid off workers are looking far away for their next job – but instead could use that time "to increase their education and training."

So five of the state's western-most colleges joined together for the program:

  • Bismarck State College
  • Dakota College at Bottineau
  • Dickinson State University
  • Minot State University
  • Williston State University

Two students who applied for the Bakken U scholarship and said they want to go to Minot State University were given smaller scholarships by that school, according to a press release.

John Newcomb (a line technician at Minot Aero Center) and Jennifer Hutchins (the spouse of an oilfield worker who does administrative work) were both awarded $750 scholarships for the spring semester, the school's vice president for student affairs Kevin Harmon told BringMeTheNews.

They were offered in the same spirit and intent as the larger Bakken U award, Harmon said – that is, hoping to keep oil workers and their families in the region by providing education opportunities.

Harmon said they do plan to offer more in the future.

However, the Star Tribune has some info on the uncertainty of the larger $5,000 scholarship moving forward.

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