SBHE members differ on chancellor review, hold off until November
September’s meeting of the State Board of Higher Education had an energetic start last week.
Board Vice Chair Greg Stemen opened the meeting with a statement on the topic, noting that overall it was in the Board’s and North Dakota University System’s best long-term interests to approach the topic with patience and due diligence. He stated that Board Chair Don Morton had noted the importance of the topic, but that it needed to be addressed with all members present during the next face-to-face meeting. Morton was physically absent from the meeting due to a schedule conflict but was present via teleconference. Board member Kathleen Neset was absent for part of the meeting due to travel delays, but was present via teleconference before arriving at Lake Region State College in the early afternoon.
“Chair Morton and myself, along with all Board members, understand and recognize the importance of dealing with these issues in a timely, but more importantly, well-prepared and judicious manner,” Stemen stated. “With that being said, the agenda for today’s meeting was set well in advance of recent developments. It is an extensive agenda, with issues that will impact our most important people: the 46,000-plus students who attend the institutions comprising our system. We are obligated to address the agenda in front of us, to the best of our ability. The Board’s agenda is not driven by the media cycle and it will not be driven by personal agendas. Truth and facts have no expiration date. We owe it to the students, the institutions comprising our system, and to our state to act in a manner which puts their interests first.”
Stemen read on from the statement, adding that the previous day’s meeting regarding a Lumina Foundation grant to raise attainment, and a separate meeting kicking off the work of five legislatively mandated task forces, had been a critical day to improve higher education in North Dakota. Moving forward with the Board agenda as accepted would be the best for the students, system and state, he concluded.
Board member Mike Ness then moved to add an agenda item to schedule a special meeting to discuss Chancellor Mark Hagerott’s contract and possible litigation. Board member Nick Hacker seconded the motion. A roll call vote was then held, although delayed due to a technical issue with the teleconferencing system. The vote was deadlocked at 4-4, with Board members Ness, Hacker, Jacob Dailey and Dr. Casey Ryan voting in favor of the motion and members Stemen, Neset, Morton and Dr. Kevin Melicher voting in opposition. Without a clear majority, the motion failed.
With the agenda then set, Rep. Dennis Johnson made opening comments. Johnson represents District 15, which includes the area surrounding Lake Region State College and Devils Lake.
“We appreciate having you folks coming to Devils Lake so we can showcase our facility here,” Johnson began. “When you come to Devils Lake and see what we have to offer here at this facility, it’s what all your small communities have that have colleges. It’s why I feel so strongly to advocate for what we do have here.”
Johnson said the community college represents a way to bring opportunity to smaller communities and the people who live in the surrounding regions.
“We’re here for the children and to provide a service to offer education to the people who are close by,” Johnson added. “For the colleges to focus more on certain programs that they can specialize in so there isn’t the duplication.”
Johnson took the opportunity to highlight the Dakota Nursing Program, Precision Ag Program and Wind Technician Program. Those programs respectively helped provide good educations for local students who stayed and worked in the state. Johnson also spoke briefly about the system’s membership in the Midwest Higher Education Compact, a consortium of Midwestern states that focused on higher education. He noted that membership in MHEC continued to be of great benefit to NDUS. He asked that the Board should aim to continue the membership, which he stated offered a 7-to-1 return on investment.
Dr. Patricia Moulton and Ms. Susan Gunsch provided the first academic program presentation of the meeting, which included recommendations from the Nursing Workforce Shortage Group. In the past year, several studies had highlighted the severe need for nurses throughout the state.
Moulton noted that several agencies were looking at the problem, as it affected so many populations. She noted that the plan was still only in draft form, although it contained extensive data representing a culmination of work across several agencies and schools.
Moulton stated that not only was the state’s population growing, it was aging. The nursing workforce was also aging, although North Dakota’s nurse’s average age was slightly younger – by one year – than the national average. Moulton noted that a number of factors drove the nursing shortage, including access to the program. While there were numerous programs throughout the state, a shortage of qualified nursing instructors resulted in some programs having to deny qualified nursing student applicants. That could mean more than 200 qualified applicants not being able to pursue a nursing degree each year. Increasing program capacity could result in long-term growth if more faculty could be recruited and retained. Promoting the development of remote sites to increase distance education offerings for nursing candidates could also help, she said.
Gunsch then spoke on retention and if a difference was possible in keeping N.D. students in the state, as well as retaining nurses in the workplace. She said that if a nurse chose to leave the state, it was typically after their second year of nursing. Over the last seven-year period retention had only grown from 49.8 percent to 50.9 percent. Gunsch added that other ways to mitigate the problems that created the nursing shortage could include increasing loan repayment funding programs, increasing coordination throughout N.D.’s institutions, recruiting from other states, increasing program capacities and retaining more of our nursing staff.
North Dakota State Staff Senate President Retha Mattern then provided an update on behalf of that group. She provided brief background on NDSSS, notably how the budget situation had affected staff morale throughout the system. She said staff understood how difficult budgetary decisions could be, and expressed encouragement that they could be heard by the Board.
Chancellor Mark Hagerott then provided his regular report, touching on the Digital Initiative, and on President Kennedy’s work with Unmanned Aerial Systems at UND. Kennedy said there was a “huge opportunity” for the state to further work and research in UAS. He noted that an interim director was appointed to the newly created Research Institute for Autonomous Systems. That lead, Mark Askelson said N.D. was a “premiere UAS ecosystem” that the institute sought to leverage into something greater. He said the purpose was to create autonomous systems, apply them and create world-changing technology in the UAS space.
Consultant Linda Donlin provided an update on a grant from the Lumina Foundation. The grant would help study available means to increase educational attainment of all ND citizens, as well as the rate of program completion and graduation throughout the university system. She stated that the world had changed from an industrial economy to a knowledge-based economy and the resulting goal was to provide access to quality education to all. Donlin said the grant for NDUS was for $99,500 and could be explained as three distinct parts: attract adult learners, develop a plan to identify needed credentials and high-quality certificates, and communicate the plan to the state,.
Board Committee Updates
Stemen then gave a brief update on the Audit Committee’s work, including personnel changes, an audit manual and more.
On the Academic and Student Affairs Committee agenda, Ness brought forward one recommendation for an organizational change at Bismarck State College to create the new Dakota Institute. Also recommended were five program terminations at University of North Dakota for a master of arts in Theatre Arts, a graduate certificate and master of science in Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, graduate certificate in psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, graduate certificate in nurse anesthesia, and graduate certificate in family nurse practitioner.
On the Budget and Finance Committee agenda, Hacker brought forward numerous recommendations. They included adoption of resolution regarding financing by the N.D Building Agency; approval of the allocation of $260,000 total between North Dakota State University and UND to support doctoral programs; and authorization to NDSU to provide Burlington Northern Santa Fe with an easement. Hacker also proposed ratification of Chancellor’s interim authorizations for NDSU to proceed with construction of a Seed Cleaning Facility, construction of the NQ Parking Lot, renovation of the NDSU University Village Phase 1,, and to name its newest residence hall, Catherine Cater Hall. Further recommendations were for ratification of interim authorizations at UND to increase spending authorization for fire protection systems at Brannon Hall and the construction of a parking lot along James Ray Drive and University Avenue.
Other Budget and Finance Committee business included authorization to remove withdrawal or rollover restrictions for terminated employees participating in the NDUS Defined Contribution Retirement Plan; and recommending changing the first principle of the tuition model to state that “Tuition will be charged per credit hour or at a flat rate assessed at either 12 or 13 semester hours.” All recommendations found approval.
Neset provided an update on the SBHE Governance Committee. Neset noted that the committee reviewed the evaluation processes, the self-assessment process, and Board meeting timetables. Valley City State University President Tisa Mason then provided a more detailed look into higher education governance.
N.D. Student Association President Kaleb Dschaak provided a report via email to the Board, but was unable to comment directly on NDSA activities due to technical issues of the teleconference system.
Birgit Pruess commented on behalf of Council of College Faculty President Deb Dragseth, who was unable to be present. Pruess posed questions on staffing decisions, research royalties, and a grading system that CCF would be creating for individual colleges and universities.
In other Board business, the Board waived the first reading and approved the second reading for Policy 302.6 (student financial assistance program advisory board). It also held the first reading of Policies 1912 (public records), and 611.2 (employee responsibility & activities intellectual property). The Board then heard Hagerott provide updates on his and the presidents’ goals. At this time Board members offered brisk discussion on the review process for goals and if it could be more easily summarized, as well as how it tied to evaluations and contracts. Hagerott also provided updates on the presidential search for Mayville State University, SBARE, granting Josh Duhamel an honorary degree from UND, and NDUS annual Strategy Modifications.
The next Board meeting is scheduled for Oct. 26, 2017, via the Interactive Video Network.