Ham Shirvani, the new chancellor of North Dakota's university system, has proposed some sweeping changes to the system, including creating a three-tiered class system, if you will, among the state's 11 universities. In other words, the days of treating all North Dakota's universities equally are over, at least in Shirvani's world.
Shirvani's plan would put the state's largest two schools, the University of North Dakota and North Dakota State University, in a class by themselves, complete with tougher admission standards than other universities in the state. Below that class would be the remaining four-year schools, Minot State University, Dickinson State University, Valley City State University and Mayville State University. The third level would include the state's two-year schools in Williston, Bismarck,?Devils Lake, Bottineau and Wahpeton.
Under Shirvani's proposal, high school students who fail to meet higher enrollment standards for UND and NDSU, which would include a student's ACT scores, number of core academic classes completed in high school, and the person's high school rank and grade-point average, would be eligible to enroll at schools in the second or third tiers.
We're not keen on the idea at all.
Creating class divisions among universities will do nothing positive for anyone except the folks at UND and NDSU, many of whom might already consider those institutions to be in a class by themselves. But what about the rest of the universities, those in the second and third tiers? How are they supposed to continue to attract top students, staff members and faculty members when they're classified as second-tier universities? Perception can be a difficult thing to overcome. That's why Minot State and others fought so hard decades ago to become universities rather than colleges. Would this new system be in the best interest of the state's students? We believe the answer is no.
Despite claims to the contrary, size does not always matter. Smaller universities in North Dakota continue to offer top-quality educations and provide opportunities for students that larger, higher-priced institutions cannot. Intentional or not, creating a new class system will undermine those efforts.