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North Dakotan's to vote if higher education should be governed differently in November

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Bismarck, ND (WDAY TV) - A group of legislators wants to change the way higher education is governed in North Dakota. They received enough support last legislative session to get a measure on the upcoming November ballot.

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North Dakotan's get to vote on the measure because it would change the state's constitution.

The current board of higher education is made up of eight volunteers and a chancellor. It's a model matching most other states.

Larry Skogen/Interim Chancellor: "Those boards are basically all citizen soldiers that are running higher education.  That is the form of governance that is the model of higher education in the country."

Some North Dakota legislators think the eight person volunteer board model isn't working. They cite recent incidents that include the falsifying of degrees at a state university, the removal of a chancellor and the firing of a university president as reasons.

Al Carlson/ND Representative: "We need to make sure this is a smoothly run operational system that understands the role of the board and it understands the role of the college presidents.  And there seems to be a real disconnect in today's situation."

The legislature's fix is to appoint a three-person, full-time commission.

It would look a lot like the Public Service Commission or Industrial Commission. Except, these commissioners would be appointed, not elected.

David Hogue/ND Senator: "That's the up or down proposition of this measure.  Do you want full-time leadership, or not?"

Opponents argue the three-person commission model puts too much power in too few hands. And, they say, national accrediting bodies won't like it.

Kirsten Diederich/ND Higher Ed Board Chair: "We are autonomous.  We need to keep that autonomy.  If we lose that the accreditors will come down on us in a heartbeat.  It is one of the criteria for accreditation at our institutions."

The selection process for members on the proposed commission would be the same as the process for the current board.

Members are nominated from a number of places including the state house, senate and Supreme Court.

Then they are appointed by the governor.

This issue will be Measure number 3 on the November ballot.

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