DOE officials plan Nov. visit to Dickinson State UniversityRepresentatives from the U.S. Department of Education will be visiting Dickinson State University later this month, although the trip is not believed to be in direct reference to the recent scandal that rocked DSU, said school president D.C. Coston
By: Bryan Horwath, The Dickinson Press
Representatives from the U.S. Department of Education will be visiting Dickinson State University later this month, although the trip is not believed to be in direct reference to the recent scandal that rocked DSU, said school president D.C. Coston.
DOE officials will be on campus for parts of four days from Nov. 26-29 to conduct a program review of the federal financial aid programs that DSU participates in.
Carrying over from issues that were first detected in 2011, a scandal involving the school’s artificial inflation of enrollment numbers sent shock waves through the DSU community earlier this year.
Soon after the scandal kicked into high gear in February, DSU was placed “on notice” by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, an organization responsible for the accreditation of over 10,000 colleges and universities in 19 states.
The Higher Learning Commission, an arm of the NCA, has the power to strip away an institution’s status as an accredited place of higher learning, which would be the next step for the NLC after placing an institution “on notice.”
“As far as I know, this visit by the DOE doesn’t have anything do to with Dickinson State University’s accreditation status or what happened earlier this year,” Coston said. “These visits are routinely done and will be a check on how well we’re managing federal student aid dollars.”
Coston did say that some “eyebrows may have been raised” at the DOE following the bringing to light of improprieties at DSU.
“They might have wanted to see what we’re up to and we welcome that,” Coston said. “My understanding is this will be similar to an audit. We think we’ve set the right tone at DSU since the news broke and I certainly feel like we’re heading in the right direction.”
By late February, DSU officials are expected to submit to the HLC a written report on how the school has met compliance standards in the wake of the scandal. HLC officials then plan to visit DSU sometime in April and are expected to reach a decision on DSU’s accreditation status sometime next year. While on probation, DSU has retained is status as an HLC institution.
“We’re preparing every day for the report that is due and the visit from the HLC in April,” Coston said. “Our students are continuing to receive a great education and have great learning opportunities here. We’re going to do everything we can to make sure we remain a top notch institution.”
DSU has been under scrutiny since 2011 when a state audit raised a number of red flags over admissions standards for foreign students, the awarding of unearned degrees and other infractions. Most of ousted former DSU President Richard McCallum’s leadership team at the university has since moved on from the school, raising more questions.
The latest defection is John Hurlimann, former director of the Strom Center and the school’s Office of Extended Learning. Although Hurlimann is still listed in the school’s directory, an automatic reply to an email sent to Hurlimann’s DSU account stated that he is “no longer with Dickinson State University.”
Another high-level DSU official — who wished to remain anonymous — told the Press of plans to leave the university later this fall. The unnamed official is believed to be one of the final members of McCallum’s cabinet to remain at the school.
“I wouldn’t read too much into that turnover,” Coston said when asked about the defections. “I don’t think that’s abnormal in the world of education. I believe that’s just part of the normal ebb and flow of people coming and going.”