After a year of turmoil in the North Dakota University System, incoming chancellor Larry Skogen said he wants to focus on rebuilding trust in the office and encouraging transparent operations.
"The past year has had its challenges, but it's a new day now," said Skogen. "The Board, the North Dakota University System and the presidents of our colleges and universities all share the same goal to provide our students with a quality education that helps them take full advantage of the ever-growing job opportunities in North Dakota."
Skogen, who has been president at Bismarck State College, was first appointed as acting interim chancellor by the board of higher education earlier this year after Hamid A. Shirvani was ousted as chancellor. He was later confirmed as the interim chancellor and will officially take office Nov. 1. The position will run through June 2015. The position is interim because voters in the state are set to vote in November 2014 on whether to restructure the governance of the university system.
The past year was also marked by turmoil on the board of higher education itself. The State Attorney General found that the board violated the state's open meeting laws earlier this year. Skogen said Thursday that the university system has begun live streaming of monthly board of higher education meetings.
His office is also focusing on fine-tuning the Pathways to Student Success concept, which is intended to increase transparency and accountability.
Skogen said committees are looking at such things as how to structure tuition payments so that there are no hidden fees that students must pay. That may be easier said than done, since some programs such as welding might charge a fee for expenses in the program. Parents might not know up front about the additional costs of such a program when they are looking at university or college tuition.
Skogen also said different groups will be working to provide the public with more information about which high schools have done a good job of preparing students for college-level work. Groups are also working on a future college admissions policy that would use such things as GPA, standardized test scores, classes taken and state residency to determine whether students are eligible to attend a four-year university or a two-year college in the university
system. That admissions policy has yet to go into effect, but Skogen said the groups will use current data to determine what qualifications are necessary for a student to be successful at a particular college.
The Pathways to Student Success Program was first approved by the board of higher education in 2012. Among its goals are to improve graduation rates, better prepare students for future careers and keep the cost of higher education affordable.
"I'm looking forward to working the Board, University System staff, institution leadership, K-12 leaders and our elected officials to achieve the best possible outcomes for our most important resource our students," he said. "By doing that, we will accomplish what we all want success for our students in reaching their greatest potential, and accountability to our citizens for the investments our state is making in our students'
Skogen emphasized the positives of the university system. His office released data this week indicating that the state ranks second in the nation in the
percentage of science,
technology, engineering and mathematics degrees awarded and community college graduates are 61 percent more likely to go on to complete their degrees compared with the national average of 36 percent. Tuition costs at North Dakota institutions remain low in comparison to colleges nationwide, according to his office.
Skogen also said that the statewide economic impact of the university system increased from $1.6 billion in 1999 to $4.4 billion in 2011.