Jul 1st, 2003 @ 9:45 am | Author: Ellen-Earle Chaffee, President
My crystal ball was cloudy. I thought we would make news last week with a State Board of Higher Education decision related to VCSU. The Board did decide to allow NDSU to offer new doctoral programs in education, within limits. It did not decide whether VCSU, Dickinson State, and Mayville State may offer a limited number of graduate courses (not programs or degrees) for teachers and school librarians. Instead, that motion was tabled until September.

You may well wonder why we want it, why they may not let us have it, and what the delay means.

We want graduate credit authority because our teaching alumni in the region and would-be school librarians across the state want to continue their education at VCSU. They already have bachelor’s degrees. They need continuing education on a regular basis and especially now as a new federal requirement (No Child Left Behind) is taking effect. Graduate credit is appropriate for them, and it helps qualify them for higher salaries. The graduate universities provide few graduate courses by distance delivery. We can deliver both quality and convenience. We aim, too, to help teachers get started on their master’s degrees in collaboration with the graduate universities.

Our second major reason for wanting graduate credit is that we have a new world-class degree program in technology education that has a potential national market at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. We are delivering it to Florida this year and have had inquiries from several other states.

Why might the Board deny our request? They may think this could represent overly ambitious expansion plans, often called "mission creep." The Board is looking at a possible statewide mission review and academic master plan, indications that they are concerned about overlaps, duplication, and competition.

The delay in deciding appears to mean that Board members wanted more time to reflect on the matter.

One event that will occur between now and September is the Board’s annual retreat. A consultant will help the Board more clearly define roles and responsibilities for itself, the Chancellor, and the presidents. The North Dakota University System is ten years old as a system rather than a collection of fairly independent institutions. This is a good time to take stock and look forward. They may see what they want to do with VCSU’s request as they clarify their roles and goals with respect to program development.

The Board will also be setting its goals for the coming year, carrying the work of the Roundtable into the future. Revisiting the Roundtable goals might also shape their views of VCSU’s request. In that regard, as I said last week, the primary focus should be on helping people achieve better lives through education and creating a stronger, better state, not program duplication and institutional competition.

In the meanwhile, I would like very much to hear from teachers and others who have an opinion about this matter. Should VCSU seek to offer graduate courses? Please get in touch with me at 845-7100, by mail, or at Ellen_Chaffee@mail.vcsu.nodak.edu.