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Ryan Johnson, Published February 28 2013

2nd higher ed board amendment discussed

BISMARCK – Another constitutional amendment to overhaul North Dakota’s higher education system is now being discussed in the Legislature.

Senate Concurrent Resolution 4028, introduced this week by Sen. Joe Miller, R-Park River, would eliminate the state Board of Higher Education that’s been in place since 1938 in favor of a newly created “council of regents.”

The council would appoint a chancellor who would serve as CEO of the North Dakota University System, similar to the current structure under the board.

But Miller said the current board, with seven citizen members and one student representative, isn’t subject to elections because members are appointed by the governor and approved by the Senate.

“It seems somehow it loses its connection to the people somewhere along that line,” he said.

It also is a different approach to reforming higher education than House Concurrent Resolution 3042 introduced this week by Rep. Rick Becker, R-Bismarck. That constitutional amendment would get rid of the board and create the elected office of higher education commissioner.

Miller’s plan would make the chancellor position appointed by the council of regents. But the chancellor would gain the authority to appoint and remove campus presidents – a power now held by the board.

Another change, he said, is the council would be made up of three voting members who are subject to elections: the governor or a designee of the governor, the superintendent of public instruction and the agriculture commissioner.

The council also would include eight nonvoting members, two appointed by the governor and three selected by the majority leaders of the House and Senate.

Miller said this would give the Legislature a “venue” to make its opinions known but still let the chancellor lead the system with only a three-member council to answer to.

“I want to make sure that there’s some space between the politics and the ability for the chancellor to do his job,” he said.

If approved by the Senate and passed in the House, the proposal would go to a public vote in November 2014. If voters approved it, the changes would take effect Jan. 1, 2015.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Ryan Johnson at (701) 241-5587