A Governor-Appointed Chancellor Can Lose Us Accreditation, But Not Hundreds Of Phony Degress?


At the Grand Forks Herald today, the editorial board engages in a bit of fear-mongering over proposed changes to how the state’s university system is governed. The Herald, apologists for the state’s universities and proponents of the university system (which gobbles up more than $1 billion of our tax dollars every biennium) being “independent” of our elected leaders, argues that Rep. Al Carlson’s resolution to reform system governance would lose the state’s universities their accreditation.

“[I]f a proposed amendment passed Friday by the North Dakota House becomes part of the state constitution, then it seems likely that all 11 of North Dakota’s colleges and universities are going to run into serious accreditation problems,” writes Tom Dennis on behalf of the Herald. “That’s because the amendment would vest full executive power over the schools in a director, who in turn would report to the governor.”

The operative words there are “it seems likely.” It seems nobody has actually asked the Higher Learning Commission, which is in charge of accreditation, whether or not this proposed change in governance would have that impact. The Herald, eager to protect the status quo, is jumping to conclusions.

But let’s suppose the Herald correct and Rep. Carlson’s proposed change in governance would cost the state accreditation. Is it really true that the Higher Learning Commission wouldn’t pull accreditation for Dickinson State University, which handed out hundreds of phony diplomas based on phony course work and grades, but would pull the accreditation of every university in the state because the governor appoints the chancellor of the system?

That strains belief.

Again, Dickinson State University gave away over 500 phony degrees. Officials at the university faked transcripts and created phony grades, and to date the only person really held accountable for those actions was former president Richard McCallum. As if he did it all himself. There have been no criminal charges pursued. There have been no other terminations.

For that, North Dakota probably should have lost accreditation for DSU, but the Higher Learning Commission demurred.

So no lost accreditation for a “diploma mill,” yet lost accreditation for bringing the oversight of elected leaders to the system?

If that’s true – and I’m not sure we should take the Herald’s word for it – it speaks to some very skewed priorities at the HLC.