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HLC decision on DSU’s accreditation unknown

The regulatory body charged with overseeing Dickinson State University’s educational status was scheduled to take up the school’s accreditation Thursday, but any decision may not be known for more than a week.

The 18-person Higher Learning Commission Board of Trustees was scheduled to meet Thursday and Friday in Chicago with one of the board’s agenda items being DSU’s “on notice” accreditation status, HLC spokesman John Hausaman stated in an email sent Thursday to The Press.

“The meeting begins today and ends (Friday),” Hausaman stated. “The actions taken by the Board of Trustees are typically released within seven to 10 days following the conclusion of a meeting. Institutional actions will be reported on our report of actions page. Institutional actions are made public after the institution is notified.”

Hausaman added that all “institutional actions” are handled by the board in executive session and are not subject to become public until after the school in question has been notified by letter or email.

DSU spokesperson Marie Moe said the school expects to receive word about any action taken “sometime next week” and that notification is expected to be delivered to DSU President D.C. Coston.

The path to whatever decision the board comes to on the DSU accreditation matter, however, may not be illuminated.

Jack McDonald, an attorney for the North Dakota Newspaper Association, stated in an email that North Dakota’s open records law only encompasses records and not “thought processes” and that out-of-state groups are not included in the law.

When reached by phone Thursday night, former North Dakota state senator and HLC Board of Trustees member Dave Nething said he could not release any information on the DSU matter other than to confirm that its accreditation status was on the board’s agenda.

“All I can tell you is that the office will be releasing what was done,” Nething said. “I think they will do that late (Friday), if you watch the releases. I can tell you it was on the agenda and, as a matter of course, the office will release that information.”

DSU was placed on notice by the HLC — an independent corporation that operates under the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools as one of six regional institutional accreditors in the U.S. — after a scandal involving the school inflating enrollment numbers became public in 2011.

According to HLC bylaws, being placed on notice is one step away from an institution losing its accreditation.

However, higher learning officials in North Dakota familiar with the situation, including Coston and North Dakota University System interim chancellor Larry Skogen, have expressed confidence that the HLC will revoke the school’s on notice status and return it to a schedule of normal operation.

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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