The Slow Death Of Pathways To Student Success Continues


Embattled former North Dakota University System chancellor Hamid Shirvani was canned after personality conflicts with politically-powerful university presidents. But really, it wasn’t Shirvani’s personality or management style that was the problem. It was his policy.

North Dakota’s bloated university system, which has no less than 11 public campuses serving a state that until just recently had less than 700,000 residents, has long thrived on a quantity-over-quality mentality. In order to justify their existence, these campuses have resorted to packing campuses with policies ranging from lavish tuition waivers to outright diploma mill fraud.

When Shirvani was hired, he brought to North Dakota a plan called Pathways to Student Success. This plan would have raised enrollment standards in order to improve academic outcomes. The emphasis, under Shirvani’s leadership, would have been on serving a smaller number of students better rather than wholesale enrollment growth.

His plans ran straight into a brick wall of institutional arrogance. With cut backs to tuition waivers already costing the university system enrollment numbers, university presidents couldn’t afford to let Shirvani’s reforms get traction lest they see their bureaucratic empires downsized.

So Shirvani was set packing by the university presidents – replacing him with one of their own in Bismarck State College President Larry Skogen – and now a campaign is being waged to delay and, I’m certainly, ultimately dispatch the reforms he put in motion as well. The latest salvo in that battle happened at a special meeting of the State Board of Higher Education today:

FARGO, N.D. (AP) – North Dakota Board of Higher Education members are wrestling with complaints from college administrators over a plan to improve graduation rates and retention.

The Pathways to Student Success plan is scheduled to be fully implemented in 2015. It includes a proposed admissions index based upon a combination of high school grade point average, core courses and the ACT college entrance exam scores.

University system interim chancellor Larry Skogen said during a special meeting Friday that while presidents agree with the board on its goals, the board should not be in the business of setting ACT or GPA minimums.

The problem with Shirvani was always his policy reforms. The university presidents didn’t like them, so they flexed their political muscle to get rid of the chancellor who proposed them and to cow the board that hired the chancellor.

North Dakotans are getting an object lesson in why governance of the university system needs to be changed just months before a constitutional measure to make those changes will be on the ballot (see the measure here). The lunatics are running the asylum in the university system. The SBHE isn’t in control. The university system is being run not for the benefit of North Dakota or its taxpayers/students, but for the benefit of the university system itself.