Chapter 1 - Introduction

Historical Overview

VCSU
Valley City State University was established by the North Dakota Constitutional Convention as a land grant institution in 1889. From the beginning, the institution was a product of both local community initiative and direction from the North Dakota legislative assembly. Eager for early action, representatives of the Valley City community prevailed upon the first legislative assembly to pass a bill implementing the constitutional provision. The Normal School opened on October 13, 1890, in rented quarters in Valley City, and in September of 1892 moved to its present location. In 1894, the first graduating class, consisting of three members, received normal school certificates.

In 1921, the legislative assembly authorized the State Normal School at Valley City to award a Bachelor of Arts degree in Education (later changed to Bachelor of Science in Education), and designated the institution as Valley City State Teachers College, effective July 1, 1921. The new collegiate status subjected the College to new standards of academic quality and breadth of program. The curriculum in the liberal arts and general education expanded to provide a broader intellectual foundation. The purpose of the institution was enlarged to include the preparation of secondary school teachers and supervisors as well as elementary school teachers, and preparation of students for vocations and professions other than teaching. In 1939, an important development in governance of the institution occurred with a constitutional revision creating a State Board of Higher Education (SBHE) and placing all of the state’s institutions of higher education under its control.

Although the College had offered a liberal arts program since 1946, it was not until 1963 that the legislative assembly recognized the expanded mission and designated the institution as Valley City State College. In 1987, the name was changed to Valley City State University. The University saw further expansion of its mission in 2005, when the State Board of Higher Education authorized the University to offer a Master’s of Education degree.

Primary Themes from the Last Report

In retrospect, four major items stand out in the 2001-02 self study report's discussion of VCSU during the 1990's:
  • The implementation of the laptops and VCSU's technology emphasis
  • The shared administration with Mayville State University
  • The state-wide concern about a "precipitous decline" of high school seniors in North Dakota during the following decade
  • The expected impact of the newly established Roundtable and Legislative changes in funding models for the University System.
Technology Emphasis
VCSU’s emphasis on technology, designated by the State Board of Higher Education in 1990, and the implementation of the laptops in 1996, have had a continued impact on teaching and learning at VCSU. The culture of blended learning developed by over a decade of 24/7 laptop access made recent campus challenges easy to overcome, most notably the Spring 2009 regional flood, when the physical campus was forced to close but courses continued online.
Shared Administration
The shared administration with Mayville State University ended in 2002, following the recommendation of a consultant panel hired by the State Board to assess the viability of continuing the arrangement. The Success II report prepared by these consultants provided a number of suggestions for differentiating the two institutions and program development, advice which has helped both institutions plan effectively over the past decade.
Enrollment Challenges
In response to the concern over impending enrollment challenges, faculty and staff at VCSU implemented additional programs that built on program strengths - an online master’s in education (with an emphasis in teaching and technology), a "transition to teaching" program to help prepare post-baccalaureate individuals for K-12 licensure in shortage areas - and programs that responded to unmet needs in the community and region, through collaboration with partner institutions, specifically a 3 1 Fish and Wildlife program and a nursing degree offered through collaboration with Dakota College Bottineau. The maturation of these programs during the past two years has resulted in enrollment growth even though the number of high school seniors in North Dakota continues to decrease. VCSU has now experienced three consecutive years of enrollment growth; headcount in Fall 2010 was a 19% increase over Fall 2009, with the largest freshman class since 1988.
Legislative Changes
The establishment of the Roundtable on Higher Education (authorized by state legislation in 1999) and the development of a long-term finance plan for campus funding established by the Legislature in 2001 resulted in state-wide accountability measures for the North Dakota University System, tuition revenue retained by campuses, and an emphasis on the university system as an engine for economic growth. This "flexibility with accountability" has encouraged higher education across the state to become more engaged with its communities and more entrepreneurial in its efforts to partner with stakeholders throughout the state, changes that have forged a new relationship between Higher Education, the business sector, and elected leaders.

The long-term finance plan for campus funding included a peer-funding model and allowed campuses to retain tuition. At VCSU, the expected benefits of peer-funding have not been realized, primarily because the comparative analysis shows that VCSU funding is close to its peers. In the years following the 2001 change in how tuition funds were managed, VCSU and several other campuses in the system explored the possibilities of per credit tuition, and in 2005 VCSU received permission to move to that tuition model. This change has worked well for managing online and graduate enrollment, and for students taking a combination of online and on-campus credits. It has also lowered the cost for part-time students, and VCSU's part-time enrollment headcount has increased. On the other hand, it has decreased the number of credits students complete at graduation, reduced enrollment in performance courses (such as band), and minimized the number of credits students might take to explore studies outside their major field.

Accreditation History

Valley City State University is currently accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, by the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education, and by the National Association of Schools of Music. The State Normal School at Valley City received its initial accreditation by the North Central Association in 1915. Recent accreditation history includes comprehensive evaluations conducted in 1982-83, 1991-92, and 2001-02, followed by recommendations for continuing accreditation.

In 2005, VCSU received initial approval for a change in accreditation status to the master's level, limited to the M.Ed., with two concentrations (Technology Education and Teaching and Technology), and up to 20 credits hours (or not more than 5 courses each year) of additional, non-program graduate credit, with a progress report due in June 2007. The progress report was submitted in April 2007 and an additional change request to add a third concentration (in Library and Information Technologies) in May 2007. The report was accepted with no further follow-up required, and the change request approved. In October 2009, the Commission removed the limits on concentrations and on the number of non-program credits allowed for professional education graduate courses.

In 2009, VCSU received permission from the Higher Learning Commission to add four "course locations" in order to extend delivery of the elementary education program to students at four community colleges in Wyoming--Casper, Riverton, Powell, and Torrington. At that time, VCSU was delivering five courses in person at Northwest College (Powell, WY) which were then transmitted via intervideo network to the other campus sites; this number has since decreased to four courses. The remaining coursework for the program is delivered online. In 2011, the Commission approved the addition of three more course locations in Wyoming, at Gillette, Laramie County Community College (Cheyenne), and Rock Springs.

VCSU received its most recent NCATE approval in 2009, with the next site visit scheduled for 2015. VCSU received ongoing approval from NASM in 2007, with the next site visit scheduled for 2017; most recently (June 2010), NASM approved distance delivery of the music major.

The Self-Study Process

The campus community began to engage in self-study as the School of Education and Graduate studies prepared for the NCATE continuation visit in 2008, and programs began to review their curricular and assessment processes in preparation for that report/visit. Since almost every program on campus provides teacher education program majors, NCATE preparations provided continuity for thoughtful, thorough review and continued focus on assessment despite changes in leadership.

In October 2008, VCSU sent a small planning group to a PEAQ workshop in St. Louis. These efforts laid the groundwork for planning the self-study process. In the following spring, the President appointed the self-study coordinator. The self-study plan was developed in summer 2009, and the criterion chairs were appointed. They served as the Steering Committee for the self-study process in addition to directing five task groups, each charged with researching one of the criteria.

Only one member of the initial planning group was able to attend the Higher Learning Commission's Convention in 2009, but the self-study coordinator and several administrators have attended the 2010 and 2011 Conventions to assure their understanding of the processes and to assist those new to accreditation with a strong background in Commission expectations.

On VCSU's campus, the kick-off for the self-study process was announced during Welcome Week activities in August 2009. Task groups collected and analyzed data and wrote preliminary drafts relating to their assigned sections during 2009-2010; writing/revising the self-study draft followed during the 2010-2011 academic year. Committee report materials are available in the Resource Room.

Drafts of the report were reviewed by the Steering Committee during Spring 2011, and the report was completed in summer 2011.

The Self-Study Report Organization

The report that follows first discusses significant changes at VCSU over the past decade that have built momentum for continued success. The next section outlines the University's responses to the concerns of the 2002 comprehensive visit team report. This is followed by chapters presenting evidence for each of the five Criteria of Accreditation, a chapter documenting VCSU's compliance with federal mandates, and a Substantive Change Request for Distance Delivery. Please see the Table of Contents for more detail.