Higher Learning Commission Can Find No Provision In Measure 3 To Threaten Accreditation


In addition to their report yesterday, the Higher Learning Commission (the accreditor for North Dakota’s state universities) has issued a report on Measure 3, a constitutional amendment that would replace the current State Board of Higher Education with a three-member commission.

There’s a lot of spin in the report – the entirety of which you can read below – but this seems the most pertinent statement in the whole document:

“the team has not identified any provision that, on its face, violates current HLC accreditation standards”

Unfortunately, that statement of fact is couched in a lot of fear mongering about how the HLC cannot imagine how a full-time, three-member commission (appointed in the exact same manner as the existing board) could carry out its functions properly like the existing board.

While the team has not identified any provision that, on its face, violates current HLC accreditation standards, it challenges the imagination to envision how the proposed commission structure will provide commission members the autonomy to lead NDUS institutions with the welfare of each institution’s students, faculty, staff, and the communities that each serve, as the foremost consideration in the judgments that they would be called upon to make. Thus, simply stated, the team’s second major concern with respect to Measure 3 is “Will a governing body, developed per the requirements of Measure 3, command or be given sufficient autonomy to meet the intention of HLC Core Component 5.B., Subcomponent 2?”

My question is, how can a three-member commission not function well? Again, all that’s being changed is that the existing part-time board is being replaced by a full-time commission with fewer members who are appointed in the exact same way.

Throughout this process the HLC has played coy about their stance on Measure 3, and they continue to do so.

What’s ironic is that the HLC and the university officials wring their bureaucratic hands at the idea of their precious universities being governed by a structure susceptible to “politics” (as if that isn’t the status quo all over the country) even as they play politics themselves to try and defeat Measure 3 with ambiguity.

If Dickinson State University issuing hundreds of phony diplomas based on trumped-up grades wasn’t enough to lose a North Dakota university its accreditation from the HLC, switching to a full-time commission won’t be enough.

At the Grand Forks Herald reporter Anna Burleson, who apparently read the NDUS press release about the HLC report and not the report itself, writes this:

In a letter to SBHE Interim Chancellor Larry Skogen, HLC President Barbara Gellman-Danley also said Measure 3’s proposed implementation date of July 1, 20215, didn’t provide enough time to develop of an “effective new governance process.”

That’s not true. Here’s what the letter actually says:

In addition, the proposed implementation date of July 1, 2015 provides little time to develop the details of an effective new governance process before the implementation date arrives. If the Change of Control and Structure application to the Commission is to be successful in achieving approval for the governance change these details will need to be fleshed out prior to the application deadline in early February, and individuals across the system will need to be prepared to discuss them with the Fact-Finding Team in spring of 2015.

The HLC letter doesn’t say Measure 3 “didn’t provide enough time.” That’s something Burleson invented. What the letter actually says is that the implementation date of July 1st provides “little time.”

Though that’s misleading. There’s no reason why the university system couldn’t be preparing for the change to a new governance structure the day after election day in November, meaning they’d have more than a year to get it done.

Hlc Observations on Measure 3