University of North Dakota Faculty/Staff Newsletter

NDUS Pathways to Student Success will help build a bright future for our state

Dear Colleagues:

This is an exciting time for all of us who are part of the North Dakota University System. As the Chancellor of NDUS, I am pleased to share the latest developments and keep you informed as we progress towards our collective goals.

When the State Board of Higher Education appointed me to this position last spring, I used the time between my appointment and my start date of July 1 to seek advice from multiple constituencies including concerned citizens, members of the academic community, the Legislature, the Governor, and the State Board of Higher Education. From each, the message was clear and unambiguous, namely, to build a stronger and higher-quality university system academically and administratively. While the task before us is difficult, it is by no means impossible. I know that with your help, we can make that happen.

Our challenges are many in the current educational climate.  Our tasks range from continually ensuring our admission standards are competitive, tuition waivers are appropriate, finding ways to help and reduce the percentage of students needing remediation/developmental work and ensuring our dual-credit courses maintain the highest standard. We need sufficient oversight, including risk management and compliance, appropriate and complete policies and procedures, and a need for competitive faculty and staff salaries. None of these educational challenges have easy answers.

Based on an assessment of these challenges and advice from our state’s political leadership, I began working with my staff to formulate a set of fundamental concepts focused on substance and standards which, if accomplished, would serve as building blocks for the establishment of a strong university system and a foundation on which to expand qualitatively.  Our draft document, which was titled the “Three Tier Access Plan,” included five essential elements:  Access, Affordability, Learning, Quality and Accountability. Each was intended to address certain limitations in our present structure and, in doing so, prepare us for dealing with the future needs of our citizens.

That draft plan has since been shared with the university system’s many constituencies, including faculty, staff, students, legislators, the Governor and the Governor’s staff, the Vision 2020 group, and the Department of Commerce leadership. It was also shared with editorial boards across the state. Overall, the response has been positive.

As a part of this consultative process, the president of each institution was asked to study the plan, consult with their campus constituencies, and provide feedback. All have done so. Additionally, there was a Cabinet discussion and subsequent meetings with the academic vice presidents and members of my staff. Based on the inputs, comments, and suggestions that resulted from these productive sessions, I am pleased to present you with a revised plan that is now being called the “North Dakota University System Pathways to Student Success.”

What follows are among the many collaborative revisions that have been made to the original draft plan:

  1. TITLE. We have changed the title of the plan from our initial “Three-Tier System Access” to the “NDUS Pathways to Student Success.”  This was done in response to the perception held by some that the term “three-tier” implied three distinct levels of quality rather than the intended concept of “institutional complexity.” In other words, the original title was chosen to represent the Carnegie classification of institutions of higher education which, for the past four decades, has been the framework for recognizing and describing institutional diversity in higher education. For example, UND and NDSU are classified as “high” research universities; MiSU, VCSU, DSU, and M! aSU are identified comprehensive baccalaureate universities, with Minot being a comprehensive master institution; and the remaining five institutions (BSC, DCB, LRSC, NDSCS, and WSC) classified as two-year community colleges. Because the Carnegie classification system is not widely understood by the public, we chose the present title to better describe our intent, namely, to connect student readiness and educational goals with the multiple pathways available through the programs available in the 11 institutions of the NDUS.
  2. DUAL CREDIT. In the original draft plan, we intended that dual-credit courses be taught by community colleges only. Based on extensive feedback and considering that some students are interested in taking courses on-site versus online, we have revised the draft plan to permit all four of the comprehensive universities to continue with their dual-credit courses on the condition that they apply the criteria standards developed jointly by the Chancellor’s office and the office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. Provided these criteria are adopted, the concerns that precipitated our initial recommendation will be remedied.  In addition, all dual credit courses will be assessed at the same tuition rate regardless of institution.
  3. TUITION. The original draft plan called for tuition to be charged on a per-credit basis versus a fixed rate of tuition per semester/year. Several institutions have already been doing that. Others will be required to adopt this model by Fall 2014. However, we have revised the plan to provide greater flexibility across the groupings of NDUS institutions. The revised plan will potentially accommodate each of the types of institutions by allowing them to charge a differentiated per credit rate to accommodate low, medium, and high-cost programs, ensuring that students in the lower-cost programs are not heavily subsidizing the high-cost programs, and combining tuition with non-mandatory fees in order to provide students and their families greater transparency regarding the cost of education. Online program tuition fees will not be included as they require further study and analysis.
  4. ADMISSION. We originally proposed an index system to be used as an admission model using the student’s ACT score, class GPA, core courses, and class rank. On the basis of input from numerous sources, including national trend data, we have revised the index to now accommodate multiple inputs. Thus, while the revised index will accept those schools that continue to provide class rank, the index will also accommodate alternate options.  We also have heard that many North Dakota residents would like to have the opportunity to be considered for admission at one of our two research universities even though they might fall short of the institutions’ admission standards. Accordingly, we revised the index to accommodate programs such as “Launch,” which will allow a percentage of incoming freshmen to take courses at the campus location of their choice with a partnering community college. Through the community college they will enroll in the necessary remedial/developmental courses as well as entry-level courses that will help to better prepare their potential transfer to the baccalaureate institution they wish to attend.  In addition, we are expanding our conversations to include our K-12 counterparts to ensure that our new admission index is in the best interest of our rising K-12 students, and that they have optimal time in which to adjust to the change.
  5. TUITION WAIVERS. We have revised the original 5 percent cap on tuition waivers to ensure that Native Americans, veterans as outlined by statute, and student athletes are not harmed by the change. The revised plan also excludes student athletes at the research universities (NCAA Division 1 athletes) from the 5 percent cap. Under this change, UND and NDSU student athletes would be admitted consistent with NCAA rules and existing university policies. Employee tuition waivers will also remain intact and are outside the cap. Overall, only five institutions will be impacted by the 5 percent cap. The other six are already in compliance. We intend to work out a plan with each of the affected institutions to minimize the impact. It is important to note that the tuition waiver restriction applies only to undergraduate tuition. Graduate tuition waivers require further study and analysis and only apply to the research universities.

This year celebrates the 150th anniversary of the Morrill Act, which began a national commitment to allocate a portion of the revenues from the sale of public lands to support higher education in each of the states. Since that time, numerous states have made measurable strides by establishing world class public higher education institutions. Having been blessed with rich natural resources, innovative agricultural and industry leaders, and a booming economy that has become the envy of the world, we in North Dakota have a unique opportunity to make a similar contribution to the future of our state and nation. My hope is that the citizens of North Dakota will support the NDUS Pathways to Student Success Plan and make our university system one of the truly great educational systems in the nation. We are poised to be not just a good university system, but a truly great university system. It is ours to build. I believe in that goal and, working together, we can accomplish it.

-- H.A. Shirvani, chancellor, NDUS.

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