SBHE holds strategic retreat

June 28, 2016

Board reviews Cabinet studies, discusses self-assessment


BSC President Larry Skogen presented details on the Mission study.

BSC President Larry Skogen presented details on the Mission study.

The State Board of Higher Education took a full day recently to reflect on its ongoing efforts to shape the vision of the North Dakota University System. During the Board’s annual strategic retreat held earlier this month, members heard updates on several studies from the Chancellor’s Cabinet, talked self-assessment, reviewed results from the Envision 2030 educational summit, and discussed the importance of having a sound governance model.


The morning’s studies were kicked off by Bismarck State College President Larry C. Skogen, who spoke on the study regarding Missions. Skogen said that the study was based on a five-year trend from statistical analysis from each institution. The study was based around the question of whether or not the state’s economic, education and workforce needs were being met by the current structure of and program delivery of the system and its institutions.

Taking into account historical background of the system and those institutions, and the current trends in statewide demographics, Skogen said that under the statewide analysis, certain needs were found to have been met, but others, such as those providing enough K-12 teachers, were falling short. Throughout varied regions in the state, agriculture remained a high priority, and education with technology also trending higher as a regional priority.

Skogen concluded that education and training needs differed throughout the state, as did the employee pools in regions and from rural to urban areas. Surveys indicated that while six four-year degree-granting institutions comprised 77 percent of the study body, there was a need in the western part of the state for more four-year programs. He noted that the five two-year degree-granting institutions that made up 23 percent of enrollment could be expanded to help meet the changing needs of the workforce, which was increasingly looking for employees in the medical and skilled trades.

“We need to have a stronger connection between elementary, secondary, higher ed, business and industry so that students understand what is available out there,” Skogen said.


Mayville State University President Gary Hagen spoke to the Board next, providing them details on the Retention study. Hagen began by noting that the committee looked to find gains in retention and graduation rates through successful implementation of the Predictive Analytics Framework, ensuring appropriate retention and graduation metrics to ensure continuous improvement, reporting progress and challenges the system office and Board, and providing ad-hoc committee oversight as needed.

Hagen said that in recent years, focus throughout the nation has shifted away from access and enrollment to outcomes such as retention and completion rates. Retention rates were relatively new to higher education, but funding had been provided by the N.D. Legislature to implement PAR and early intervention tools like Starfish, both of which helped drive methodologies to increase positive outcomes at NDUS institutions already.

He continued, noting that campuses were set to accelerate retention rates by sharing best practices before the Fall 2016 semester begins. The collaborative efforts would quickly assist retention needs and culminate in a year-end report that would detail statistics, implementation progress, student improvement activities, summary of campus organizational and structural changes, and major concerns and accomplishments.

Administrative Costs

NDUS Chief of Staff and Vice Chancellor for Institutional Research and Informational Technology Lisa Feldner provided findings on the Administrative Cost study. Feldner introduced the study with the current best breakdown across campuses of students and employees in the following areas: academic administration, academic disciplines, athletics, external affairs, information technology, institutional and business affairs, physical plant, student affairs, and research.

Feldner compared system data against national averages, and listed industry-banded job families that provided a further breakdown of similar positions throughout the 11 public colleges and universities. She stated that certain job counts by banded job families remained to be completed. A salary market study compared N.D salaries to those elsewhere.

Shared Services

Minot State University President Steve Shirley provided details for the Shared Services study next, noting that a number of initiatives were already in place throughout the system. He noted that systemwide collaboration was underway for topics relating to Learning Management Systems, procurement, library databases and more. Regional collaborations were also being considered that would create “hub” approaches where the largest institution in a given region would serve the needs of one-to-three smaller area campuses for responsibilities such as internal audit, Title IX, international students, and more.

Feldner said that other opportunities for collaboration existed in expansion of current practices, such as shifting video/audio conferencing to ND ITD this year, processing payroll more centrally or as expanded regional approaches, possibly expanding the institutional research model currently in place at BSC, NDUS and University of North Dakota, and more.

Tuition and Fees

North Dakota State College of Science President John Richman gave the study on Tuition and Fees next, first noting that the current cost-based funding model per student had been put in place by the 2013 Legislative Session. At that time the approved funding for base appropriations was done using a three-tiered approach for two-year colleges, four-year universities and research institutions with a goal of equalizing Student Credit Hour funding within each institutional tier by 2015, which was achieved.

Richman compared tuition and fees, and their descriptions, between North Dakota, Minnesota, South Dakota, Montana, Oregon, Tennessee, Colorado, Maine and Wyoming, and against assistance provided for in-state and non-residents. Richman added the potential impact to each institution, should the model change.

“The best value I think the modified Pathways program presents to you, for your consideration, is to allow for that flexibility,” Richman said. “I realize that we’re asking for a template to work with in tuition, yet we’re not trying to refine and put an institution into a box.”


Valley City State University President Tisa Mason provided the last of the Cabinet studies, on governance. She noted that effective governance included creating a culture that enabled high levels of trust and flexibility in accomplishing work and making timely and responsive decisions. Doing so would be facilitated with focus on oversight, insight, and foresight.

Mason found that using a self-study based on an article from the Association of Governing Boards indicated that there was a balance for any governing board in holding authority and wielding it judiciously. Furthermore, the system and the Board must serve the state, citizens, and students, while at the same time providing autonomy for each institution.

Recommendations moving forward would be to review the assessment processes and procedures for the presidents, chancellor and the Board.

Envision 2030

Chancellor Mark Hagerott presented system findings on the recent Envision 2030 summit on education. Reiterating discussion points from the days’ speakers, he focused on summarized goals found during the breakout sessions on nine topics as they related to higher ed and the needs of the future.

After discussion surrounding the day’s proceedings, and accompanying handouts, the session facilitator asked attendees to write down their thoughts on how to align breakout session ideas with the Board’s strategic plan.

Dirk Huggett, project manager with Core Technology Services, led that goal refinement process to start the afternoon session. He asked that presidents and Board members bring their ideas forward and he would aim to align them with the four main strategic plan goals: deliver degrees that are best in the nation; provide programs that people want, when and where they want them; equip students for success; and maximize the strengths of a unified system. After several dozen ideas were posted under the topics, Huggett selected one idea from each  – denoting either a challenge or a goal – to prompt conversation about how that idea could be implemented. They were:

  • Single out areas of focus and invest in them.
  • Leverage small size for higher quality.
  • Recognize that providing needed programs may not equal 4- and 6-year graduation rate goals.
  • University of North Dakota’s 10-year plan to become an AAU member.
  • Increasing automation requiring fewer employees.

Assessments & Self-assessments

Board member Kari Reichert spoke about the purposes of assessment during the afternoon session. She said that many details on the topic were presented at a meeting of the Association of Governing Boards. Among the points made regarding the purposes of assessment were fiduciary duty, fulfilling requirements of accreditation, contributing to collaborative strategic leadership, creating an opportunity to develop plans and actions that increase the effectiveness of a president’s work, expanding the board’s knowledge of president’s work, and providing insights on governance effectiveness.

Later, Vice Chancellor of Strategic Engagement Linda Donlin opened up the Board’s self-assessment portion of the meeting. She noted that the Board self-assessment was vital to successful Board function and was equally important to the Higher Learning Commission. The last self-assessment was done in 2014. The current self-assessment used that same framework.

Using the previous self-assessment as a baseline, Donlin was able to provide side-by-side comparisons of where the Board was in 2014 and where it stood today. Numerous areas showed significant growth by the Board and its vision for the system. Some areas highlighted that growth by noting successful completion of previous goals allowed the Board to focus on working toward new ones. Some accomplishments, such as implementing of the five-year strategic plan and reinstituting committees, had been instrumental in moving the Board’s mission forward.

The self-assessment was split into varied sections, including biggest issues facing North Dakota, the most important challenges facing NDUS, what Board practices should be enacted or discontinued, the Board’s top accomplishments and top issues to be addressed.