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Published August 15, 2012, 08:42 AM

Chancellor proposes shakeup of North Dakota higher ed

GRAND FORKS, N.D. (AP) — The new chancellor of North Dakota's university system is proposing tougher admissions standards at the state's four-year colleges, elimination of most tuition waivers and regular reports about how new high school graduates are doing in college.

GRAND FORKS, N.D. (AP) — The new chancellor of North Dakota's university system is proposing tougher admissions standards at the state's four-year colleges, elimination of most tuition waivers and regular reports about how new high school graduates are doing in college.

Ham Shirvani's proposal includes transferring responsibility for remedial instruction of new college students to the state's five public two-year colleges. The community colleges would also handle all courses taken by high school students for college credit.

The chancellor outlined the proposal Tuesday in meetings with two newspaper editorial boards. He plans to discuss it with school administrators in the coming weeks, Shirvani said.

The blueprint will need approval from North Dakota's Board of Higher Education, and Shirvani said it will be implemented gradually if the board endorses it. The board's president, Duaine Espegard, said Shirvani "is in charge and has our full support, and we will rely on him to lead the system."

North Dakotans "should expect changes in the North Dakota university system," Espegard said in a letter published in the Grand Forks Herald on Wednesday.

The system now has six four-year colleges and five two-year schools. Shirvani's proposal puts them into three categories, with North Dakota's two largest schools, the University of North Dakota and North Dakota State University, at the top. UND and NDSU are the only institutions that offer doctoral degrees.

The second category consists of the four-year universities at Mayville, Valley City, Dickinson State and Minot. The third would be made up of the system's two-year schools in Williston, Bismarck, Devils Lake, Wahpeton and Bottineau.

Admission standards at UND and NDSU would be the most strict. Under Shirvani's proposal, students would each have an admissions score based on their ACT score, the number of core academic classes the student completed in high school, and the person's high school rank and grade-point average.

Students who fell below the score needed to attend UND or NDSU would be eligible to attend one of the system's other colleges, he said.

Forgiveness of tuition charges would be severely restricted under the chancellor's blueprint. A recent audit was critical of college policies on tuition waivers, saying they varied greatly between institutions.

Remedial instruction for new college students, which is now done at North Dakota's four-year schools, would be reserved for community colleges under Shirvani's proposal. Almost one-quarter of the North Dakota university system's new students need some remedial instruction, according to system statistics. Almost 14 percent of NDSU students need remedial coursework, compared to 5.4 percent at UND.

Shirvani said 48 percent of the students who begin college in North Dakota's university system finish within six years. At NDSU and UND alone, the rate is only slightly higher, he said.

"When you bring the student who is not well prepared, after one year, they drop," he said. "They can't handle it."

The chancellor said he would also push for a "readiness report" that would relay information about the college results of each North Dakota high school graduate back to their home high schools.

The report would provide information to teachers and parents alike about how well their high schools had prepared their students for college, Shirvani said.

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