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Published January 15 2013

Forum editorial: A stronger higher ed system?

Eyes rolled and jaws dropped when North Dakota’s higher education chancellor said he needed 30 additional employees in the University System’s office to do the job right. Legislators, most of them loath to add to the state’s payroll (even when more workers are necessary), prattled on about how out of bounds Chancellor Hamid Shirvani was.

But on further examination the request might not be so startling. The NDUS staff is 26. Gov. Jack Dalrymple’s budget calls for adding seven. Seems generous, until staffing levels are compared to the agenda the chancellor has put forth for the system. Shirvani proposes improvements that are designed to strengthen the higher education system as a system, not 11 campuses going their own ways. He wants more transparency and accountability. His goals have been embraced by the state Board of Higher Education. He seems to have the support of key lawmakers.

It cannot be done with an NDUS staff that is stressed already by a workload that continues to grow, without added responsibilities that will come with the chancellor’s mandates. If the system is to be meaningful at all, the administrative and implementation staff should be sized right in order to do the job right.

Shirvani’s reforms are as thoughtful as they are ambitious. No doubt they will be modified along the way. He might have shot high for 30 new employees, knowing he won’t get all of them.

Consensus is building among educators and legislators that the chancellor did his homework and developed strategies that can strengthen the system. But it can’t be a halfway effort. That’s a recipe for stagnation, for business as usual. And that means failure.

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Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.