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On Bryce’s Mind

By Staff | Dec 7, 2012

For all intents and purposes, I am still a recent college graduate. In a way, I’m glad I graduated in May 2012, because it’s possible that if it were at any other time in the future, I might not have been able to graduate. There’s also the possibility that I wouldn’t have gotten in to my alma mater, Minot State University, at all.

As Bob Dylan said in one of his songs, “The times, they are a’ changin'”. And they may or may not be great for the North Dakota University System.

Chancellor of the State Board of Higher Education Hamid Shirvani has a multi-faceted plan, one called “Pathways to Student Success”, which would change everything in regards to the 11 colleges and universities in the system (University of Mary is excluded because it is privately run), everything from enrollment to accountability.

It would put all 11 campuses in the system into three tiers. North Dakota State University and the University of North Dakota, because they are considered “research universities”, would be at the top tier, and, as such, would be able to call dibs on the bright, high-ranking students. Minot State, Dickinson State, Valley City State and Mayville State would be considered second tier schools, as well as “regional universities.” Dakota College of Bottineau, Bismarck State College, Lake Region, Williston State College, and the North Dakota State College of Science would be considered “community colleges”, and as such would be on the lowest tier.

It would change admission requirements based on residency, ACT/SAT composite scores, completed core high school courses, high school percentile rating, and high school GPA.

It would set up a system that would predict a student’s performance in higher education based on how he or she performed in high school.

It would allow Shirvani to set tuition rates for students taking onsite or online dual credit courses through the University system. Speaking of tuition, the NDUS would move to a per-credit hour tuition model, with all associated fees, mandatory or otherwise, tacked on to tuition.

The full draft of the plan is online at ndus.edu/uploads/




As several editorials in ND newspapers, as well as various students at my alma mater have said, this plan is not without its problems.

One, all colleges, not just one tier or another, should be able to recruit not just bright, high-ranking students, but students from all walks of life. Whether or not they’ll graduate, or whether or not they’ll do the work is up to them.

The second thing I have a problem with is the performance prediction. Say someone were failing, oh, I don’t know, Math 266 at NDSU, which is Introduction to Differential Equations, and that person was originally from Rugby and graduated from RHS. The possibility is there that math teachers at RHS would be saddled with the blame for that student’s failure, when in all actuality it could just be the student’s fault that he or she is failing class.

Third, college is expensive already, with the prices of room and board, tuition and fees, and books all on the rise. For those wanting to graduate sooner, which would mean taking a whole heap of credit hours, it would be even more expensive under the new model. Even for those shying away from doing that, it would be expensive too because it would mean staying in school longer to get a degree. Either way, it adds up.

The timing of this is also a problem. Shirvani hasn’t been in office for very long, yet he wants to see some provisions in place as early as Fall 2013, even with few responses from presidents and students of this state’s higher-ed institutions, and with little time for administrators to study the effects of the proposal. In fact, a “my way or the highway” attitude was the reason 240 general faculty members of California State University-Stanislaus put in a vote of No Confidence in Shirvani back in November of 2009, when he was president of the institution. The full reasons were his, to quote an article from the online archives of the Turlock Journal, “abandonment of the shared governance process, the deteriorating working relationship between Shirvani and faculty, and Shirvani’s seeming lack of understanding of the mission of the CSU system.”

Look, if you want to reform facets of higher education, go right ahead. But to go about it with a plan that hasn’t been studied by those under you, and going about it even after some of those under you have said how it will hurt them, is dangerous, and not right.

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