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Other Views: Kudos to chancellor for acting like a chancellor

GRAND FORKS -- In our view, there's one and only one reason why Mark Hagerott, chancellor of the North Dakota University System, is paid an amount that's on par with the salaries of the presidents of the University of North Dakota and North Dakot...

GRAND FORKS -- In our view, there’s one and only one reason why Mark Hagerott, chancellor of the North Dakota University System, is paid an amount that’s on par with the salaries of the presidents of the University of North Dakota and North Dakota State University.
It’s because Hagerott is expected to lead the system, much like the NDUS presidents do at their individual institutions.
And in leading the system, Hagerott also is expected to promote the system’s interests - specifically, by making sure that each president’s decisions align not only with the interests of that president’s institution, but also with those of the entire system.
To do that, Hagerott no doubt will second-guess decisions made in UND’s administration building. In other words, UND’s time will come.
But right now, Hagerott is providing important oversight to some plans being made at North Dakota State University.
And for that, he deserves North Dakotans’ support.
Recently, Hagerott was asked what he thought of NDSU President Dean Bresciani’s goal of aiming for membership in the Association of American Universities. To boost its odds of joining that elite, 62-institution group, NDSU should grow its enrollment to 18,000 students, boost its scholarship endowment by $100 million and increase the number of endowed faculty positions, Bresciani said in a speech.
Hagerott essentially replied this way to the question: Yes, but.
Yes, AAU membership would be spectacular. But if growing to 18,000 students is going to require a lot more funding from the state, then it’s probably not going to happen anytime soon, Hagerott suggested.
“I will say that coming to ask for more dorm rooms and more bricks and mortar, that would not be something I’d support,” Hagerott told a Forum News Service reporter.
As the story continued, “Hagerott said he’d be hesitate to request state funds for new buildings as long as oil prices are low and other campuses have ‘excess capacity’.”
Making sure the decisions of one campus don’t hurt the other campuses in the state - in other words, the system: Yes, it strikes us that Hagerott is acting like a chancellor.
That’s a big development that North Dakotans should welcome.
Here’s another piece of evidence, this one from the same story: Hagerott thinks the NDUS institutions’ main goal should be not growth, but retention.
In other words, each institution should focus on making itself better, not just bigger. And that’s especially true because “bigger” typically requires more money from the state, whereas “better” may not.
Face it, both NDSU and UND have room for improvement on core academic indicators, such as schools’ graduation rates. That’s where the universities should focus their attention.
And there are plenty of ways that an institution can strengthen itself without asking for more state money. Growing the institution’s endowment is one, and Bresciani’s smart to also focus on that ambitious but vital and achievable goal.
In chat rooms, NDSU supporters already are grumbling about the chancellor throwing cold water on NDSU’s plans for growth. But nothing is stopping NDSU from growing in quality as opposed to raw numbers, as the examples of AAU members Vanderbilt (12,700 students), Carnegie Mellon (13,200 students) and Emory (14,700 students) universities ought to make clear.
The Grand Forks Herald’s Editorial Board formed this opinion.

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