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OBSERVATIONS ON THE PROPOSED VISION AND PLAN FOR THE NORTH DAKOTA UNIVERSITY SYSTEM Eddie Dunn, NDUS

Chancellor 2006--2007 May 2, 2013

There is no easy way to say it: The actions and news events regarding higher education in North Dakota are resulting in serious damage to the credibility of the North Dakota University System. That is unfortunate. In addition, the reputations of the board members, individually and collectively, are being severely tarnished. That is also unfortunate. The issue has escalated to an even more serious level considering the legislature has passed a resolution referring the decision to the citizens as to whether or not the structure of the entire system is to be changed and the SBHE eliminated. I have dedicated all but nine years of my life (the nine years I spent as senior vice president of the Greater North Dakota Association State Chamber of Commerce) in the higher education arena from being a college professor to serving as chancellor, 2006 2007 (with a brief stint in Washington D.C. as acting deputy director for economic development with the Federal Extension Service). As a result, I have a strong interest and investment in the success of the higher education system in our state. It would be unconscionable for me to remain silent while the system is imploding. Because of my involvement in the university system, I am being contacted quite often by a wide range of individuals asking for my reaction to the events taking place. The contacts range from business associates to legislators and news media personnel. As a result of these conversations and the questions being posed to me, I decided to take another close look at the Pathways to Student Success plan developed by the chancellor and adopted by the board. I studied the plan from a number of perspectives. In doing so, I realized I needed to go back in history to refresh my memory on where we came from, what drove the significant changes in higher education over the years, where are we today and how does (or does not) our current higher education system position us to meet the higher education needs and opportunities of our young people and our state. I also decided it would be useful to review information from: MHEC (Midwestern Higher Education Compact) regarding performance of higher education states in the Midwest; NCHEMS (National Center for Higher Education Management Systems); and the planning and accountability reports published by the NDUS. HISTORY OF NDUS: Attached is a document I have kept on file titled, History of the North Dakota University System prepared by former chancellor Larry Isaak. (Mr. Isaak was chancellor from 1994 through 2003 and employed with the system office for 20 years). It is an excellent summary of the developments tracing the system from 1938 through 2003. He presented the information, at the boards request, on March 27, 2006, as part of a board education and orientation session. 1

As you will see, the document identifies the key realities and forces that led to the formation of the higher education system we have today. The section on why the System was created (beginning on Page 14) is especially informative in that it begins to lay down the logicfoundation for the design and refinement of a system that meets the needs and expectations of the students and state. The final two pages of the document (Pages 25 and 26) list the attributes of successful systems and include comments that are very insightful and powerful. As one reviews the comments and relates them to the current situation (do I dare say disaster that is occurring) it is easy to understand why the controversy has escalated to the level it has. A considerable amount of wisdom has been developed over the years and invested into both the design and implementation of the unified system we have today. Therefore, when I see and hear the quote: Shirvani says he was given a mandate by the state Board of Higher Education to overhaul North Dakotas education system and fix its problems, I not only shudder, I get concerned. The document prepared by former chancellor Isaak ends at 2003. The Report of the Roundtable on Higher Education picks up the time line from there beginning with the Executive Summary and including the sections titled: (1) The Look Into the Future, (2) Future Conditions and Trends That Will Impact North Dakota and The North Dakota University System, and (3) North Dakota Realities. COMPARISON OF PATHWAYS PLAN WITH ROUNDTABLE PLAN: I re-read the Pathways plan and decided it was not useful to analyze or comment on the plan without a basis of evaluation and comparison. I concluded the most relevant and useful reference source would be the Roundtable on Higher Education since this work has provided the foundation and blueprint for developing policies, reporting systems, and operating mechanisms for the NDUS over the last two decades. It was an opportunity for me to also examine the Roundtable principles, recommendations, etc., to determine, in my view, if they were still relevant or in need of being replaced. When I began comparing the Pathway plan with the Roundtable plan, my first reaction was: how different the plans are for creating a higher education system considering both claim to be designed to best serve students and the state. Statewide Versus Regional: The Roundtable plan builds on the philosophy of fostering and encouraging a state-wide approach through collaboration among all 11 institutions. The Pathways plan embraces a regional service philosophy through incentives and rewards. For example, student success in the Pathways plan is measured by the percentage of students who graduate from the same institution they enrolled in as first-time freshmen. Students who transfer in or out are not counted as completers and included in the graduation numbers even if they complete their degrees within a four or six-year period.

In contrast, the Roundtable plan emphasizes collaboration among the campuses in recognition of the rural nature of the state doing so through supportive student transfer policies including common course numbering, associate degree transfers, updated articulation agreements and an overall increase in cooperation among the campuses. Focus on Four-Year Graduates: An additional and significant change in emphasis in the Pathway plan is the increased focus and reporting of four-year graduation rates (percentages). Unfortunately, placing emphasis on fouryear graduation rates of students who attended and graduated from the same institution within four years further encourages every campus to fend for itself, the result of which is to go back to the silo system that existed before the unified system of higher education and Roundtable principles were created and implemented. The non-collaborative nature of the silo system was the source of extensive debate in the legislative assembly for a number of years leading to the creation of the unified system of higher education in the early 90s. Once the unified system was written into state statute, it was followed by administrative systems and policies which encourage student transfers, collaboration, associate degree transfers, etc., mentioned earlier. Non-Traditional and Lower Income Students: Also, focusing on four-year graduation rates discounts and distorts the persistence efforts of students from lower income families. According to the most recent Lumina report, 79 percent of students in the top quartile of family income graduate from college while only 11 percent of students in the bottom quartile graduate. Those in the bottom quartile run out of money; have to work full-time while attending college; don't have parents who have attended college; are older than average and/or have family responsibilities. As a result, dramatically lower graduation rates occur when a four-year metric is used. At best, it takes this group of students longer to achieve their degrees at no fault of the institution(s) providing the education for them. Therefore, measuring the performance of institutions using the four-year graduation rate does a disservice to both the institution and to the students who are seeking higher education degrees, but face larger challenges in doing so. Graduation rates (both percentages and total numbers) can and should be improved not only in North Dakota but across the nation. Forcing colleges and universities to increase graduation rates using metrics that encourage isolation and competition for students in place of collaboration, access and affordability will not be in the best interest of students or the state. Intentions to Obtain a Degree: For several years prior to 2010, the NDUS obtained and reported information on student intent to earn a degree. The most recent data available (2010) shows only 61 percent of NDUS community college students entered college intending to earn associate degrees within three years. A total of 65.4 percent of the NDUS students who enrolled in four-year universities intended to obtain degrees within six years. Having data on student intent to obtain degrees can be valuable to policy makers such as board members in helping understand graduation rates. Obviously, if students entering colleges and universities do not intend to obtain degrees within the three, four or six-year timeframe, that fact will be reflected in the graduation rates of the respective institutions. 3

It is useful to note that a large percentage of students who enroll in community colleges, not only in North Dakota but nation-wide, do so for reasons other than obtaining a degree. Those reasons include obtaining additional knowledge or skills in specialized areas to increase their employability as well as their job performance capabilities. Providing specialized skills training, as well as providing the first two years of a four-year education, (in addition to be being accessible locally) are the fundamental reasons community colleges exist. Misleading Information: I reviewed the handout the chancellor used for testimony to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees. A glaring example of misleading legislators and the public comes from what was NOT shown in the handout and presented in testimony. The chancellor clearly left the impression the colleges and universities within the NDUS are grossly under-performing in comparison to his personal selection of comparative institutions. BUT, no graduation or retention data was included for the NDUS two-year colleges. I was curious to know why. I examined the IPEDS data and noted if the numbers for the two-year colleges had been included they would have shown a completion rate of 44 percent compared to 22 percent nationally for two-year schools. That is TWICE the national average and, thus, a powerful message that was left out (Keeping in mind the relatively high portion of students who enroll in two-year colleges are not intending to obtain a degree). When you include students who graduated from other campuses, the graduation rate increases to 46 percent for the NDUS two-year colleges. Obviously, out-performing the national average by 2 to 1 should have been mentioned. The same incomplete information was presented at the economic development summit in Grand Forks. Given the effort by the chancellor to draw attention to the relatively low graduation rates for the research and four-year institutions in the state, while being silent on the two-year college success rates, suggests the intent is to place the NDUS institutions in as poor a light as possible to make the case that dramatic change is necessary. I have been around the block enough times to believe the reason the changes in a number of board policies were not distributed to campuses for review, before board action was taken, was NOT because there was a need to rush and have the plan completed prior to the 2013 Legislative Session. The real reason is the changes being proposed would not withstand the scrutiny and careful analysis by those responsible for implementation along with a comparison of best practices in higher education nation-wide. Actions such as these not only damage the credibility of the chancellor and the board, but run counter to the core values adopted by previous boards and displayed on the walls of the NDUS office in the Capitol. At least they were there when I left. Tiered System: A tiered system for the colleges and universities categorized by research institutions, four-year universities and two-year colleges makes sense and has already been implemented by the system. It differs, however, from what is being advocated by the chancellor. Chancellor Shirvani is focusing on academic standards as a way of further distinguishing the purpose and role of the colleges and universities. 4

The Roundtable also looked at the options for raising standards (with the goal of improving quality) while, at the same time, addressing the fundamental principle of better serving students in all areas of North Dakota. The thinking that carried the day (because it would maximize access and opportunity for students all across North Dakota and also make higher education more affordable) was to build a true unified system of higher education which allows students to attend the college or university closest to where they live (if they so choose) to take their general education courses and then transfer to another college or university within the NDUS to complete a four-year degree. The philosophy proposed by Mr. Shirvani (as articulated during his presentation at the Economic Development Summit in Grand Forks) is to use high academic standards at the two research institutions to attract and educate the best and brightest. Those not-so-best and bright (Note: the latter is my phrasing but reflects what I hear from communities outside Fargo and Grand Forks) can go to those other lesser schools to get their education. The naivety of that concept should be quite obvious. It assumes all the bright students will move to Fargo and Grand Forks for their education, while those who are not-so-bright in these two major communities would need to move out-of- community or explore other avenues to pursue their degree. There are already differentiated admission requirements for the categorized universities and colleges. Raising academic standards for all of our institutions is appropriate. It is the how we do so that needs careful consideration in light of the bigger picture of state-wide access, affordability, opportunity, etc. This is but one of many areas where the Pathways plan is not in sync with Roundtable plan, in concert with the vision of a unified system. Blind-Sided: Any college or university president sitting in a legislative hearing and realizing the performance of their institution is either not mentioned or, if mentioned, presented in a negative light, would have reason to be disappointed. They would have reason to be further disappointed seeing the numbers presented in PowerPoint and not having an opportunity to review them in advance for accuracy or explanation. Any CEO who would blind-side his or her cabinet members destroys the trust essential to the successful functioning of the organization. To later learn the chancellor compiled the numbers, making comparisons with institutions that were not included in the peer comparison group selected for each institution (with consulting assistance from one of the premier higher education experts, Dennis Jones, CEO of NCHEMS, and adopted by the board) creates a situation in which restoring trust will be virtually impossible This is not to suggest that presidents have a veto right or the ability to change accurate figures. The issue is common courtesy. Thoughtful individuals who have all the relevant information and viewpoints in front of them can draw their own conclusions and make informed decisions. DIFFERENCES IN LEADERSHIP PHILOSOPHIES: It is impossible not to get the impression (by observing actions moreso than reading the Pathways plan) that the chancellor (with support of the board) subscribes to a dictatorial, heavyhanded approach as the preferred leadership philosophy along with the apparent underlying

belief college and university presidents, faculty, and system office staff will not make the changes necessary, or fast enough, without a heavy hand forcing them to do so. The supporting evidence for that impression is the shortened contracts for presidents including a 30-day notice provision, restrictions on presidents visiting with board members and legislators, dismissal of employees who are firm in their insistence the board and chancellor should abide by the laws of the state, marginalizing knowledgeable system employees who provide information and advice that is inconsistent with a power and control management style, and fast-tracking major policy initiatives to avoid review and comment by the entities in the system responsible for implementation. When asked by The Forums editorial board why he was experiencing resistance to his ideas and plan, Chancellor Shirvani responded by saying he thought it was because he had been trying to move too fast but he has learned his lesson and in the future will move more slowly. He then suggested moving slower would better fit the culture of North Dakota. (I wonder how that comment went over in my hometown of LaMoure). Mr. Shirvani apparently is not aware the resistance is not stemming from his trying to move too fast. It is stemming from his trying to move in the wrong direction. SUMMARY: I need to state plainly and boldly: I believe the Roundtable plan is pointed toward the future and was thoughtfully designed to meet the current and future needs and opportunities of North Dakota. It is appropriate to ask whether or not events have changed sufficiently to merit an update of the plan. If that is the case, such an update can be accomplished but at least the plan is pointed forward. The Pathways plan, in my view, will take us back at least 23 years to where we were before the unified system was created and amended into state statute and before the expectations and principles of the Roundtable were established and implemented. The management style, policy changes, and changes in performance measures currently being pushed are all out of date and out of acceptance by those operating in an environment where mutual respect and trust are the foundation for success. It is clear the policy changes, coupled with the leadership model being used, are 180 degrees from the principles of shared governance universally accepted as appropriate for higher education systems. There is extensive evidence to support the fact that attempts to use a centralized control approach in higher education will result in a major push-back from those involved in the higher education enterprise. The most common indicator of resistance is a vote of no confidence, but it is important to note resistance isnt just coming from within higher education. It is being voiced by highly regarded private sector business people as well. IS IT VISION OR STYLE? After the first few months as chancellor of the NDUS, the first impression of Mr. Shirvani by the news media and general public was: He has a great vision. It is his management style, along with not understanding the culture of North Dakota, that are causing him problems. As additional

months have gone by, it is becoming increasingly evident both his vision and style are problematic. There are a number of other areas and examples that could be included to make the case it is not working. But in the interest of time, I will end here. I hope the information provided is useful to the board and to those who have a genuine interest in higher education in North Dakota. Much of the information provided may be viewed as biased. I accept that, but I am confident knowledgeable readers will find the concepts and principles referred to are well supported by leading authorities, not only in the field of higher education, but by modern leadership authorities as well. I had the privilege of serving as international president of Toastmasters International which has over 200,000 members in over 100 countries. The organization has a governing board of 21 members. I know first-hand large positive changes can and will happen if modern leadership principles, coupled with strong core values, are at the center of the organizations daily activities. On a more personal note: In addition to my concern for the future of higher education in North Dakota, I am also concerned about the impact recent developments have had on good and honest people in the University System office (including those who have already left) and on individuals on campuses throughout the system. They have been treated in a manner they do not deserve.

Attachments: History of the NDUS The Report of the Roundtable

File: NDUS/ Observations on the Direction of SBHE 5-5-13.docx