As a high school senior from Connecticut, Diva Malinowski took a coast-to-coast tour of 10 public universities, bearing acceptance letters from each.
She fell in love in Fargo.
"The minute I stepped onto campus, I knew that North Dakota State was for me," says Ms. Malinowski, a 21-year-old senior who matriculated from Miss Porter's School, a private academy for girls in Farmington, Conn.
Ms. Malinowski is evidence of an unlikely trend: the growing allure of higher education in North Dakota. The state ranks 48th in the U.S. at attracting tourists. Its young people routinely flee for warmer or more exciting places. The private sector here, struggling to lure sufficient numbers of workers from elsewhere, is wrestling with labor shortages even amid national unemployment around 9%.
Compare numbers and percent of in- and out-of-state students.
But college students are flocking here in ever greater numbers. Out-of-state students account for about 55% of the 14,500 enrolled at North Dakota State University, as well as at similarly sized University of North Dakota in Grand Forks. Nonresident students at North Dakota's 11 public colleges constitute a higher ratio than in almost every other state.
High school juniors and seniors scouring online college guides find North Dakota universities are inexpensive and well-regarded, with modest-sized classes typically taught by faculty members rather than adjuncts or graduate students.