In a letter sent Sept. 2 to North Dakota University System Interim Chancellor Larry C. Skogen, the president of the Higher Learning Commission shared its team’s analysis of the potential impact of the passage of Measure 3 on accreditation of the 11 institutions of higher education that are part of NDUS.
Measure 3 is a proposal on the November 4 ballot to replace the current citizen-led, eight-member State Board of Higher Education with a three-member paid commission, restructuring the existing governance of NDUS.
The letter emphasized that a change in governing structure, such as that proposed in Measure 3, requires a number of procedural steps prior to implementation, including a Commission Fact-Finding Visit to each of the 11 institutions. Approval of the new structure must occur “prior to implementing the new governance structure.” Barbara Gellman-Danley, HLC president, said that the application deadline is early February 2015 and the proposed implementation date of July 1 provides little time to develop new governance arrangements.
“Approval is by no means guaranteed,” she said. “Even if the Board approves the continuation of accreditation the Board may do so subject to a period of Commission monitoring or even sanction for one to two years of all eleven institutions until the institutions demonstrate the effectiveness of the new governance arrangements. It is very important that you and the public institutions in the NDUS understand the enormity of what is being proposed in this Constitutional amendment.”
In the accompanying summary, the team said it did not identify any provision of Measure 3 that “on its face” violates current HLC accreditation standards or assumed practices, but it is concerned that there are many details related to implementation that could threaten the system’s accreditation. The team said its opinion is that Measure 3 poses “significant risks to the functioning of North Dakota’s system of higher education as a whole and to future reaffirmation of accreditation for its individual institutions.” It also stated that “it challenges the imagination to envision how the proposed commission structure will provide commission members the autonomy to lead NDUS institutions with the welfare of each institution’s students, faculty, staff, and the communities that each serve, as the foremost consideration in the judgments that they would be called upon to make.”
The letter and the team’s report may be found here: http://ndus.edu/uploads/resources/5095/hlc-observations-on-measure-3.pdf.