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Duaine Espegard, Grand Forks, Published December 18 2013

Letter: Provisions of ‘Pathways’ have been misinterpreted

In response to the Nov. 30 article titled “ND University System may tweak once-sought tougher admission standards”:

It is noted that consideration is being given to changes (“nuclear option?”)

in the “Pathways to Student Success” plan approved by the board in 2012. The article states correctly that former Chancellor Hamid Shirvani was the architect of this visionary plan – both in its concept and in its details. What troubles me about the article, however, is the way in which some individuals have chosen to interpret it.

For example, the article equates the index scores of 210, 190, and 180 to the actual admission cutoff scores for each of the universities. This was never the purpose of the plan. The weighted scores of 210, 190, and 180 are intended for automatic admission only and do not preclude students with lesser scores from applying and being admitted to any of the six universities.

Essentially, the index score is intended for the six mission-driven public universities to select those applicants who stand the best chance of completing their coursework and graduating within four to six years, a problem that has kept the institutions well below the national average, and will certainly impact them negatively in any future performance-based budgeting plan.

The article notes, for example, that 41 percent of North Dakota State University’s applicants (c. 1,000 students) would not meet the automatic eligibility score of 210. That may be true, but it does not mean that NDSU must close off admission to those students. Instead, it forces NDSU admissions officers to review those applicants with lower index scores in terms of their potential for graduating, and consider in their decision the additional resources that may be required to support the student’s needs.

If I were a parent of a student with a low index score who intended to apply at NDSU, I would want to know what his or her chances were of graduating in a reasonable time frame, and the cost to me that additional semesters or years may take.

Some students who fall below the automatic index will require remediation to prepare them to do college work. Students with minor remediation needs are intended by the Pathways plan to be supported on site at the university by one of the community colleges. Students with serious remediation needs have no business enrolling at NDSU or the University of North Dakota as they stand little chance of graduating.

Instead, they should be advised to enroll at a community college or at one of the regional universities whose index score is not as high as NDSU or UND. This not only makes good financial sense for parents, NDSU and UND, and the state, it is also the morally responsible thing to do.

For students planning to attend one of the public universities, the index is also intended to provide them (and their high school advisers) with a clear road map to admission at the institution of their choice, thereby allowing them to better plan their courses in junior and senior year.

As it stands, I fear the intent by some is to return to the status quo rather than see the wisdom in the plan which, if I may be frank, has the same purpose and intent at 50,000 feet as it has at ground level.

Espegard, Grand Forks, is a member of the North Dakota Board of Higher Education.