Higher education department discussed

2013-03-27T16:58:00Z Higher education department discussedBy NICK SMITH | Bismarck Tribune Bismarck Tribune

 A proposal for a state Department of Higher Education drew questions Wednesday in Senate Judiciary Committee about its impact on universities. An attorney for state university system said it could mean a loss of accreditation.

House Concurrent Resolution 3047 would, if approved by voters in the 2014 general election, create the department on July 1, 2015.

University system attorney Claire Holloway told the committee that HCR3047 could cause the university system to lose its accreditation because it would violate one of the core accreditation standards of the Higher Learning Commission involving autonomy of the university governing board.

If the university system lost accreditation, it would make students in the state ineligible for federal student aid dollars, Holloway said.

“(It) would significantly affect the pocketbooks of North Dakota students,” she said.

Sen. David Hogue, R-Minot, asked if Holloway could provide any information to prove her assertion. Holloway said she would.

North Dakota Student Association lobbyist Johan Mahlum said HCR3047 would eliminate the student seat on the state Board of Higher Education and students deserve a place on the board since part of the university budget comes from student tuition.

“North Dakota would be moving backwards,” Mahlum said.

Rep. Al Carlson, R-Fargo, who introduced the proposal, said the department would be led by a director appointed to a three-year term by the governor.

Carlson noted general fund appropriations for higher education have risen from approximately $364 million in 2003 to $912 million being discussed in the current biennium. He said that doesn’t include the $50 million for additional funding for the proposed University of North Dakota School of Medicine facility and close to $200 million for other building projects.

“We’re number No. 1 per-capita in the nation in commitment to higher education,” Carlson said.

With that level of spending, Carlson said, the Legislature has a responsibility to ensure accountability in where that money is going. He said he disagrees with the claim that the Legislature is trying to micromanage higher education.

“I don’t think this has the intention of doing that,” Carlson said.

Sen. Margaret Sitte, R-Bismarck, asked Carlson about the idea of three-year terms.

“Do you think that’s taking away some discretion of the governor?” Sitte said.

Carlson compared it to the current state Board of Higher Education and current Chancellor Hamid Shirvani’s three-year contract and said he did not see the three-year term as a major political issue.

He added that if enacted, Shirvani may very well be approved as director of the new Department of Higher Education.

Shane Gerbert, government affairs officer for the University of North Dakota Student Senate, asked that the resolution, if approved, be changed to add a student voting member to the proposed Department of Higher Education’s board “so we have a seat at the table.”

No action was taken Wednesday on HCR3047. Sponsors of the resolution along with Carlson are Reps. Bob Martinson, R-Bismarck, Mike Nathe, R-Bismarck, Don Vigesaa, R-Cooperstown, and Sens. David Hogue, R-Minot and Donald Schaible, R-Mott.

Reach Nick Smith at 250-8255 or 223-8482 or at nick.smith@bismarcktribune.com.

Copyright 2015 Bismarck Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Lt. Gov. Wrigley admits affair, still weighing run for governor

Lt. Gov. Wrigley admits affair, still weighing run for governor

North Dakota Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley admitted Tuesday to having an extramarital affair after a blogger mentioned the rumored dalliance online, b…

16 hours ago

Rate increases could back Mandan water plant projects

As Mandan prepares to tweak its final 2016 budget, residents may notice a water rate increase to help fund $4 million in water treatment proje…

19 hours ago

Mandan Rural Fire Department relies on foam

Mandan Rural Fire Department relies on foam

The Mandan Rural Fire Department is trying to work smarter in its firefighting strategy by using foam and has considered full-time staff to as…

August 31, 2015 11:45 pm

Human Trafficking Commission holds first meeting

A state commission formed to review and develop a plan for addressing the problem of human trafficking in the state met for the first time Monday.

August 31, 2015 6:45 pm

Morton preps for I-94 chemical spills

Morton County rural fire departments near Interstate 94 will benefit from chemical cleanup kits as the result of a grant awarded to the Morton…

August 31, 2015 5:30 pm

Bismarck delays new fire hall for engines, burn building

Bismarck delays new fire hall for engines, burn building

As an unprecedented growth spurt in Bismarck is putting pressure on firefighters' response times, city commissioners are delaying building a m…

August 29, 2015 11:45 pm Photos

Photos