Board uses tech to talk tuition models

October 28, 2016

Video teleconference brings campuses together for October meeting


The State Board of Higher Education met digitally last week when its members gathered in Bismarck, Fargo, Grand Forks, Minot and Williston to discuss ongoing business via video teleconference. The distance connection method was put in place to allow Board members to hold regular meetings while saving on travel expenses.

Chief Financial Officer Tammy Dolan spent considerable time briefing the Board on the topics of the tuition model, and waiver definitions and reporting, part of a study related to one of the Board’s strategic goals: “Deliver degrees that are the best value in the nation.”

Dolan noted that the topics had been briefed previously, and a task force had been dealing with tuition, fees and waivers for at least a year. She noted that some recommendations had come out of that task force.

Dolan said that, in order to put any recommendations in place, the task force would need more time to determine how to find a revenue-neutral solution to impact students less. The recommendations were to approve changes to five principles within the tuition study, but delay any implementations until Fall 2019. Earlier implementation of the model is allowed with SBHE approval.

  • Principle 1 calls for campuses to implement a per-credit-hour rate except at UND and NDSU, where a flat rate would be assessed.
  • Principle 2 allows for the blending together of tuition and non-mandatory fees.
  • Principle 3 calls for on-campus and online tuition rates to be the same and consistent with residency rates.
  • Principle 4 allows the Board to consider special rates for institutions or programs based on unique considerations for markets, locations, enrollments or variable costs of unique academic programs.
  • Principle 5 assesses tuition based on residency, such as N.D. residents, Minn. Reciprocity agreements, U.S. resident at out-of-state rates, and international residents (except Manitoba and Saskatchewan) at international rates.

The topics prompted considerable discussion among Board members and senior staff. Part of that discussion touched on whether or not any of the principles could be implemented under current, legislatively-capped tuition.

Board member Nick Hacker motioned for adoption of Principles 1-4 under delayed implementation by Fall 2019. Board member Mike Ness seconded and the motion passed.

Board member Kevin Melicher motioned to approve the tuition model of Principle 5 for Fall 2019. Board member Nick Evans seconded and the motion passed. An additional motion then approved the tuition waiver modification, noting that “all institutions to develop a model to support/attract quality undergraduate and graduate students.”

Vice Chancellor for Strategic Engagement Linda Donlin then reported on updates to the strategic plan, which according to Board policy, must be reviewed annually. At its June retreat, the Board made its initial review but had not approved a finalized, updated version of the strategic plan. Changes to the document included language changes similar to those mentioned in the tuition discussion. Other changes reflected the Board’s updated stance to increase attainment goals to 65 percent. Melicher moved to accept the plan as presented and Board vice chair Don Morton seconded. The motion passed.

Chancellor Hagerott spoke briefly about formally establishing a governance committee, which will help with governance studies, presidential evaluations and more. He noted that the current study committee could be served well with one more member from the Board. Currently the committee is made up of Bismarck State College President Larry C. Skogen, Valley City State University President Tisa Mason, and Board member Ness. Board member Hacker offered to serve on the committee.

Hagerott also spoke about the Nexus ND initiative, an effort to diversify tech-driven efforts in the university system to include cybersecurity, high performance computing and unmanned aerial systems. He stated that the Dept. of Defense, Dept. of Homeland Security and National Science Foundation had set new guidelines regarding the topics. Hagerott added that professors and staff at BSC, NDSU and UND had been diligently working toward program and grant opportunities across that tech-spectrum.

Board Chair Kathleen Neset spoke on media guidelines policies. In August, the SBHE Audit Committee had directed the NDUS System Office to contract with an independent auditor to determine if NDSU President Dean Bresciani had violated any Board policy during his handling of a media guidelines policy. As part of the formal inquiry, the investigator visited NDSU and spoke with several staff members, including Bresciani, then submitted the report to the audit committee. The report noted that Bresciani did not violate policy, but stated that “there could have been improvements in his decision making and communication.” Neset said that Bresciani’s contract would be revisited at next months’ meeting, and welcomed comment on it.

The Board held first readings of Policy 506.1 (Immunizations), Policy 508.1 (STEM Loan), and Policy HR 24 (Reduction in Force). Second readings were then held of Policy 302.3 (Budget and Finance Committee), Policy 1200.1 (Information Technology Consolidation Services), and Policy 1202.3 (Data Privacy Policy).

The Board consented to the SBHE Budget, Finance and Facilities committee agenda after a briefing by Board member Greg Stemen. Board Member Mike Ness then presented on the SBHE Academic and Student Affairs Committee recommendations, which were approved.

In other business the Board heard organizational changes, assessed future agenda items and set the next Board meeting for Nov. 16, again at Bismarck State College.