Shirvani: Some University Presidents Are Part Of North Dakota's Higher Ed Problem


Chancellor Hamid Shirvani fired back a bit at some of his critics on Chris Berg’s show last night, responding to a letter from six former North Dakota university presidents.

“These past presidents could be part of the problem in our system,” said Shirvani. “We don’t have a unified system.” Clearly a reference to some current university presidents who simply don’t want their institutions to be governed by the state.

Shirvani also referred to the biggest problems in higher education (both in North Dakota and nationally) which is the soaring cost of tuition and abysmal graduation rates which combine to create big student loan debt problems. Shirvani made it clear that this problem, in North Dakota, isn’t the product of just the last couple of years. In a shot right at the university presidents who wrote the letter criticizing him, he said “This is the issue these great presidents have left.”

I’m not sure if the “great” part of that sentence was sarcastic, but that’s sure how it seemed to me. And the university presidents have earned it.

The problem with higher education in North Dakota isn’t Shirvani. He just got here. The problem is this much-touted “independence” of the universities. They’ve become so independent that it’s a nearly impossible job to exercise any sort of accountability or reform. North Dakota’s universities are being run for the betterment of the universities themselves, not the state or the people.

Shirvani aims to change that, and many in the university system (including the three current presidents Shirvani references in the video but won’t name) hate him for it.