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Commission panel favors Dickinson State University keeping accreditation

If the recommendation of a Higher Learning Commission panel is any indication, Dickinson State University could be on a path to being taken off "notice" status with the accreditation association.

Through a Freedom of Information Act request, The Press recently received a copy of an HLC-mandated report, the result of a "focused evaluation team" visit to Dickinson in April.

In a section of the 46-page report titled "Rationale for the Team Recommendation," the four-person HLC team -- made up of David Curtis from Governors State University in University Park, Ill.; Karan Powell of the American Public University System in Charlestown, W.Va.; Robert Appleson, the HLC's vice president for accreditation relations, and Susan Rydell of Metropolitan State University in St. Paul, Minn. -- stated that it found "evidence confirming that the university had made significant progress" in addressing a number of concerns that led to the school being placed under the HLC microscope.

On July 11, 2012, DSU was placed "on notice" because of "concerns related to the university's oversight of admissions and transfer procedures; its gathering and reporting of enrollment data; its accountability for, and oversight of, contractual relationships related to its academic program and the integrity of the program provided to certain international students," among other reasons, according to the HLC public disclosure notice.

In a statement from DSU President D.C. Coston released Thursday, the university's top official said he "remained cautiously optimistic" that the HLC board of trustees -- which is scheduled to take up the school's notice status at its next meeting in November -- will reach a "positive action" after deliberating DSU's case.

"Dickinson State faculty, staff, students and administration have worked tirelessly and diligently to address the university's challenges, and to chart a positive path forward," Coston said in the statement. "I am pleased that the HLC Focused Visit Team has affirmed our progress. I remain cautiously optimistic that the HLC Board of Trustees will take positive action when they have their deliberations."

Stated as evidence in its report that the university had "acknowledged that its human resources department has not investigated violations of the university code of conduct or treated applicants for open positions consistently," the team pointed to "organizational changes" that were made with nine "senior-level administrators" at DSU after April 2012.

The report did state, however, that three cases were identified where "relatively" senior administrators remained in their positions after April 2012, though the report did not identify who the administrators were.

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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