Early September meeting agenda includes Predictive Analytics Reporting, Strategic Plan, Tuition Model, authorizations for infrastructure improvements
The State Board of Higher Education moved forward with plenty of action items at its first meeting back since its June strategic retreat. At a recent meeting held at Williston State College this past week, the Board reviewed a student success analytic tool, heard an update on the strategic plan, and authorized movement forward that could adjust the tuition model in the future.
The meeting began with Chancellor Mark Hagerott relating to the Board the key points of his recent “Listen and Learn” tours around the state, where he met with leadership from different sectors to gauge perspectives on higher education.
Distilling those visits into three main points each, Hagerott stated that the state’s Senators and Representatives had largely felt that they want a system, they want efficiency gains, and they want students to graduate faster and with less debt. His visits with business people had revealed that they want more graduates to fill open positions, want more graduates to stay in the state, and they want the system to be more nimble to respond to business needs.
Hagerott then spoke about the path forward, which included reviewing ways to streamline the system through studies on governance, the tuition model, mission review, shared services, cost containment and retention.
Finally, Hagerott touched on the new initiative recently undertaken by the NDUS, called “Bakken U.” The initiative was directly focused toward workers facing a slowed economy in the oil fields, those who could add to their professional skills and experience through programs, certifications and courses at Bismarck State College, Dakota College at Bottineau, Dickinson State University, Minot State University and Williston State College.
He relayed a story about his recent interaction during a listening tour when he visited an oil well site and spoke with a young man. The 20-year old working at the site said if the oil boom slowed he would likely go find work elsewhere. At that point Hagerott noted how there were many campuses in the western half of the state where non-traditional students like this worker could retool their skillsets with a wealth of programs of study.
“The key thing is that they don’t turn anyone away, that if a program is full or a better fit is determined, the students can be directed to that,” Hagerott said. “The first phase is informational. The second phase is in raising scholarship money.”
Board Vice Chair Don Morton responded to one of Hagerott’s points in tuition models, noting that it was important to attract out-of-state students to “our rural state.” He noted that the return-on-investment of having those students come here, study here and build a life here would be “tremendous.”
WSC President Ray Nadolny spoke next on the review of fees at his college. He noted that he was very pleased the Board meeting was taking place on campus, which gave the Board members the chance to see the geography and economic challenges of the area.
In-depth discussion took place on how and why the fees had increased at the college, and what options could be explored to limit further increases or roll back those increases if possible. Later in the meeting, Hagerott noted that the “dynamic situation” would be reviewed by system office staff.
“In light of changing conditions we should reconsider some of these fees,” Hagerott said. “So what I’m going to propose is for my staff and I to work with Dr. Nadolny to have a separate set of eyes to look at all the books and the numbers. Things have been changing fairly rapidly.
“As Dr. Nadolny said there were 40 percent increase in some measures – students coming in, which gives you economies of scale,” he continued. “Maybe the fees don’t need to be so high and in some cases could be rolled back. Basically, look at the numbers and come back with the best recommendation for the fees going forward. That would meet the needs of legislature, who are mindful of setting limits on tuition and maintaining affordability. We don’t want to give the perception that this was a way to circumvent that and raise fees.”
Morton stated that depending on what system staff discovered, he could bring a motion to the Sept. 30 Board meeting to amend the annual budget guidelines with regard to WSC to possibly refund Fall semester student fees and roll back Spring semester student fees there.
Vice Chancellor of Information Technology and Institutional Research and Interim Chief of Staff Lisa Feldner gave a demonstration of Predictive Analytics Reporting. The PAR framework has been in place already in a pilot program at the University of North Dakota.
Dr. Tom DiLorenzo, UND Provost, said in his time in higher education one major challenge was in not having one tool like this for data tracking. He said this “massive predictive data effort” could help inform student loss prevention on data sets like risky behavior and positive initiatives to enhance student success.
Russ Little, Chief Information Officer for PAR Framework, then provided details on the subject. He said the first step was in building common definitions to better measure things across different institutions and systems. He offered comparisons between on-site and online students, data points like credits earned and credits taken, and metrics that he considered not just meaningful to the framework, but to the desired outcomes of the system itself.
“All of these are classic ways to identify interventions we can have to maximize our success,” Little said. “This could translate in 15-20 percent higher graduation rates.”
Dr. Josh Riedy, UND Vice Provost, spoke on how the frameworks were being used at UND. He noted that so far, PAR had been successfully employed to help increase student success. That had been done by tracking percentages of students who were on-track in their degree plans.
“Our intent is to expand the PAR model into admissions and into the K-12 model,” he said. “These are aspirational, but we’d like to have a predictive model for students before they come into the classroom. We want them to be successful, day one.”
Board members spoke their perspectives on the topic, generally noting their favorability to it and urging expedient implementation of the technology. A project plan is in place for installation of the tool, which was funded by the Legislature this biennium, and user training.
The Board also heard an update on the five-year strategic plan that included presentations from Vice Chancellor of Strategic Engagement Linda Donlin, Vice Chancellor of Administrative Affairs Laura Glatt and Vice Chancellor of Academic and Student Affairs Richard Rothaus.
Donlin spoke directly to the changes that had been implemented in updating the plan, Glatt spoke on an overview of the tuition model, and Rothaus spoke on considerations for mission responsiveness and immediate needs. She said the new vision and mission had been connected to the updated plan. She said outreach efforts had helped communicate system’s messages and what it was accomplishing. Donlin also spoke on goals of the system and detailed plan progress regarding open education resources, implementing PAR and Starfish, and other topics.
Rothaus then spoke to mission responsiveness. He said the Academic and Student Affairs Committee had met to discuss that particular notion, adding that there were some potential programs nearing the point of approval process. Institutions are responding to a need in their communities or regions, but would need to change in staffing or resources, possibly changing away from what has been traditionally considered to be their mission.
Glatt spoke to the Board after a brief recess on the topic of the tuition model, stating that increasing simplicity and transparency were the top priorities within that process. She said the competition was fierce, with 493 out-of-state institutions vying for our state’s students, before comparing the fee model between on-site and online students.
North Dakota State College of Science President John Richman said that in decreasing the out-of-state tuition cost to the level of in-state tuition rates, more out-of-state students would be attracted, thereby offsetting the lost revenue from decreasing the cost.
North Dakota State University President Dean Bresciani voiced similar sentiment about being able to entice students from South Dakota at the same rate that it brought in Minnesota students by making the out-of-state tuition cost the same as the in-state cost. He added that the return-on-investment from the students who stayed in North Dakota was substantial.
Lake Region State College President Doug Darling said that LRSC had put a tuition model in place a decade ago that set out-of-state and in-state tuitions at the same cost, and had not lost funding due to an increase in out-of-state students coming into the college.
Morton asked the Board for a motion to direct Chancellor Hagerott to conduct a study with the Chancellor’s Cabinet to revisit the tuition model. Board member Nick Hacker motioned to that effect. Board member Kevin Melicher seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Feldner spoke to the Board during the afternoon portion of the meeting on work being done to address data inconsistencies. She noted that topics had been identified during previous years that needed to be addressed and had been reviewed by the audit committee. With formal project managers hired, nine business needs had been identified.
Feldner stated that they were encompassed within the Data Inconsistencies Charter, which was unanimously approved by the Board.
Board members Kari Reichert and Nick Hacker updated the Board on the DSU and UND presidential searches, which they said were moving forward successfully. Reichert said that finalists to DSU would be appearing for further interviews on Sept. 14-16. Hacker said that search firm AGB Consulting had done great work so far in keeping the search on-track. Board Chair Kathleen Neset was appointed to the UND search committee.
The Board also heard an update from the Council for College Faculty representative Ernst Pijning, who spoke about the oath faculty take when entering employment throughout the system.
Additionally, the Board ratified the following authorizations: to proceed with reroofing and replacement of skylight in the North Dakota Museum of Art building at UND; to increase spending authorization for ADA compliance renovations to the entrance of UND McVey Hall; for NDSU to proceed with construction of a Veterinary Diagnostic Lab to be built at the Main Station Research Center in Fargo; for NDSCS to proceed with the Campus Water, Sewer Infrastructure Replacement project; and for UND to raise funds to support the renovation of Chester Fritz Library to meet the needs of the student body, and to address major deferred maintenance needs.
In other business, the Board approved a UND request for a minor in biomedical engineering, tenure recommendation and the Dakota College at Bottineau strategic plan. Discussion also took place surrounding the possibility of holding fewer Board meetings throughout the year, although no action was taken.
The Board also held the first readings of policies 302.4 (Councils), 506.1 (Immunizations), and HR 8 (Worker’s Compensation). The second reading was held for policies HR 7 (Sick Leave), 507 (Student Publications), 603.2 (Equal Employment Opportunity), and 902.5 (Construction Process-Architects, Engineers and Construction Managers).
The next Board meeting will take place Thursday, Sept. 30 at DSU.