Task Force for Higher Education Governance votes to advance three-board governance model

Tuesday, November 13, 2018 - 7:00pm

BISMARCK, N.D. – Members of the Task Force for Higher Education Governance formed by Gov. Doug Burgum a year ago voted today to advance the concept of a three-board governance model for the state’s 11 public colleges and universities as an improvement to the current single-board model.

Under the recommended model, one board would govern the state’s nine regional and community institutions: Bismarck State College, Dakota College at Bottineau, Dickinson State University, Lake Region State College, Mayville State University, Minot State University, the North Dakota State College of Science in Wahpeton, Valley City State University and Williston State College. Each of the state’s two research universities – North Dakota State University and the University of North Dakota – would have its own governing board.

“This diverse and talented Task Force conducted a diligent and thoughtful review of the challenges facing our current single-board system of governance, as well as investigating models used by other states, to identify a model that would support the most nimble, effective and accountable higher education system in a highly dynamic, increasingly competitive environment,” Burgum said after the group’s final meeting. “We’re deeply grateful to the Task Force members for their courage and insight. We look forward to working with lawmakers to advance the recommendation in the Legislature during the upcoming session and to ultimately bring a transformational governance proposal to North Dakota voters.”

North Dakota’s current governance structure for higher education has remained largely unchanged since being adopted by voters in 1938, and any changes to it would require voter approval of a constitutional amendment, which the Legislature could place on the ballot through a concurrent resolution.

The current structure consists of a State Board of Higher Education with eight voting members appointed by the governor.

Under the recommended three-board model, the community and regional institutions would have a 14-member board with 11 voting members and three non-voting members representing faculty, staff and a designee of the state Department of Public Instruction. The research universities would each have a 12-member board with nine voting members and three non-voting members of similar representation. Each board would have one full-time student as a voting member.

The three-board recommendation would also have a higher education administrator who would chair an advisory committee consisting of the three board chairs and another appointed member from the community and regional institution board to assist with collaboration and shared services.

Current student enrollment in the 11-campus system is divided into 40 percent (18,239) at the nine community and regional institutions, 30 percent (13,847) at UND and 30 percent (13,796) at NDSU.

The Task Force agreed that any new governance model should preserve a single higher education funding formula, credit transferability and common course numbering.

Burgum created the 15-member Task Force through an executive order signed Nov. 7, 2017. He tasked the panel with assessing the existing governance structure for higher education in North Dakota and determining if changes are needed to ensure the system meets the state’s educational and workforce needs in the 21st century.

The Task Force members were:

  • North Dakota Supreme Court Chief Justice Gerald VandeWalle
  • State Board of Higher Education Chairman Don Morton
  • State Sen. Brad Bekkedahl of Williston
  • State Sen. Joan Heckaman of New Rockford
  • State Rep. Mike Nathe of Bismarck 
  • State Rep. Shannon Roers Jones of Fargo
  • Dr. Debora Dragseth, professor of business at Dickinson State University and president of the Council of College Faculties. (Dragseth succeeded Bismarck State College institutional research analyst Dr. Ellie Shockley, who went to work for the North Dakota University System partway through the process)
  • Dr. Paul Markel, professor of psychology at Minot State University and former president of the Council of College Faculties
  • Dr. Angie Koppang, vice president of quality assurance for AdvancED, a nonprofit that conducts reviews of educational institutions and systems
  • Jonathan Sickler of Grand Forks, chief legal officer for AE2S, an environmental and civil engineering consulting firm
  • Tim Flakoll, provost of Tri-College University in Fargo-Moorhead, current chairman of the Midwestern Higher Education Compact and a former state senator
  • Thomas Erickson, CEO of the Energy & Environmental Research Center at UND
  • Jeffry Volk, president and CEO of West Fargo-based Moore Engineering Inc.
  • Katie Mastel of Bismarck, a marketing major and former student body vice president at NDSU
  • Gov. Burgum as chairman.

The Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB) assisted the Task Force as an expert consultant on best practices in higher education governance. A report summarizing the Task Force’s findings will be forwarded to legislators and made publicly available.