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Chancellor proposes tougher standards, would affect North Dakota college students

Hamid Shirvani, chancellor of the North Dakota University System, has proposed a major overhaul to the state's higher education system - an overhaul that stands to affect nearly every future North Dakota college student.

Shirvani released details of his proposal, which aims to increase the quality of public higher education in the state, to the Grand Forks Herald editorial board this morning.

His proposal calls for stricter admission standards across the board, in particular at the University of North Dakota and North Dakota State University - the state's research universities. A student under Shirvani's proposal would have to achieve a certain cumulative score - based on a new formula that factors a combination of ACT score, high school ranking, high school GPA and the number of high school core classes - to be admitted into UND or NDSU. Those falling short wouldn't be eligible for admission, but could be considered for a regional school such as Valley City State University or Dickinson State University. Although, even places like VCSU and DSU will have increased admission standards, as will the community colleges.

Other proposed changes include:

- Creating a North Dakota High School to College Success Report, which would basically be a way to let parents, educators and policymakers know how North Dakota K-12 students are performing at the collegiate level. This report would be readily available to anyone seeking the information. The objective is to increase the quality and readiness of students entering the North Dakota University System.

- Increasing affordability by expanding the present financial aid program to include more need-based aid as well as support for the adult learner population.

- A requirement that all remedial education courses be handled by the community colleges. No longer would UND or NDSU faculty be teaching remedial courses to incoming students. Currently, 23 percent of all university system students require remedial education. At UND the percentage is 5.4 percent, and 13.6 percent at NDSU. Dickinson State's numbers are 28 percent, according to statistics provided by Shirvani.

- Additionally, all dual-credit courses, in other words courses taken by high school students for college credits, would be the responsibility of the community colleges.

- Tuition waivers would no longer be offered under Shirvani's plan, except in a handful of cases. Shirvani is hoping to standardize tuition-waiver practices across the board.

Shirvani acknowledges that his proposal, which he said is still in draft form, may be met with some controversy, but his goal is to take the system to the next level.

"We want to build a real system we're proud of," Shirvani said, noting that state lawmakers and others have stated a desire for a good higher education system. Shirvani, who officially began his chancellor job on July 1, was hired in part to impart change in the university system.

"If you want a good system you have to change the standards," he said.

Shirvani hopes the Board of Higher Education will approve his proposal this fall. It would be put in place next year, but many of the changes would be gradual, he said. But first, he is seeking input from campus presidents, faculty, staff and students.