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Compliance: Higher Learning Commission checks up on DSU

Seen here Wednesday afternoon, the Dickinson State University campus was visited Monday and Tuesday by a team from the Higher Learning Commission. The three-person panel was in town to check up on DSU's progress following the HLC placing the school's accreditation status "on notice" last year.

Three representatives from the Higher Learning Commission visited the Dickinson State University campus Monday and Tuesday, according to school and HLC officials.

In an email Tuesday, HLC Public Information Administrator John Hausaman confirmed that a team of representatives visited DSU this week.

In July, the HLC -- an arm of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools that is responsible for the accreditation of more than 10,000 colleges and schools in the U.S. -- placed DSU "on notice" following the discovery of what it termed "oversight of admissions and transfer procedures" and other enrollment-related issues and transgressions.

"It is a focused evaluation to validate the contents of the institution's notice report it submitted as a part of being placed on notice status," Hausaman stated in an email to The Press. "(The visit) is to help determine whether the concerns relating to placing the institution on notice have been resolved."

Carrying over from issues that were first detected in 2011, a scandal involving the school's artificial inflation of enrollment numbers rattled DSU's campus community last year.

The most egregious infraction that came out when the scandal was uncovered was the fact that hundreds of students at the school received degrees or credit they didn't earn.

Earlier this year, DSU submitted a "notice report" in response to the HLC findings, said DSU spokesperson Marie Moe.

"The Higher Learning Commission Visiting Team was on our campus to review the changes that have taken place at DSU," Moe stated in an email Wednesday. "The HLC team met with staff, faculty and students to review the material in the notice report, which outlined the corrective action taken by DSU this past year to address concerns related to the criterion of accreditation."

In an internal email from DSU administrator Karen Nelson dated April 12 and sent to faculty, staff and students, Susan Rydell, Karan Powell and David Curtis were listed as those scheduled to be on campus this week representing the visiting team, along with the school's HLC liaison, Robert Appleson.

When asked when a final decision will be rendered, Hausaman stated, "There will be no outcomes reported from this visit until our board of trustees considers the institution's case this fall." The HLC board of trustees is expected to take the issue up during its November meeting.

DSU must "provide evidence that the university has resolved each concern identified in the notice action and include specific documentation to demonstrate that the university is no longer pursuing a course of action that could lead it to be out of compliance," according to the HLC's public disclosure notice issued to DSU in July.

In its lengthy notice report response to the HLC in February, DSU officials stated the school is making "changes nothing short of transformational, not just in terms of policies, procedures and operations, but more importantly in terms of the evolving culture and climate."

Bryan Horwath
A Wisconsin native, Horwath has been covering news in the Oil Patch of North Dakota since 2012. Horwath currently serves as the senior agriculture and political reporter for The Dickinson Press and, despite the team's tendency to always let him down, remains a diehard Minnesota Vikings fan.
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