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2012 October 1 - 12:00 am

Tracking Trends: ND Board: New Standards Would Improve 2-Yr. Colleges

FARGO, N.D. (AP) — Promoters of a plan to toughen admission standards at North Dakota’s two research universities said the new requirements should boost programs at community colleges and advance education at the state’s high schools.

Hamid Shirvani, who took over this summer as the university system chancellor, proposed the idea because he believes entrance requirements at the University of North Dakota and North Dakota State University are too relaxed. The improvements should trickle down to other colleges and high schools, he said.

“There is the aspiration for the board and myself to raise the level of recognition of these institutions to much higher levels,” Shirvani said.

About 7 percent of this year’s freshmen at UND and NDSU had scores on the ACT college entrance exam that were below the score required for automatic admission.

Shirvani’s plan, which is similar to a model used in Iowa, would weigh a prospective student’s high school class rank, grade-point average and core classes completed as well as the student’s ACT score. Each factor would be given a score, and if the total is above a set value, the student would be accepted.

The chancellor said that the formula could be tweaked.

“We are still working on exact numbers,” Shirvani said.

The plan would allow university presidents the leeway to add students under special circumstances. That number would be capped at 5 percent of the total freshman class from the previous year.

Board member Don Morton, a Microsoft Corp. executive and former head football coach at NDSU, Tulsa and Wisconsin, said the formula could be tricky for athletic programs that require large numbers to compete at the Division I level.

“You need just as many football players at NDSU as you do at Michigan,” Morton said.

Shirvani said it might require taking student-athletes out of the 5 percent equation and making a separate category.

Shirvani said the plan could initially result in fewer students at NDSU and UND, but it should not lower the state’s overall college enrollment. Some students are better off starting at community colleges, he said.

Board member Grant Shaft, of Grand Forks, said the change is a good idea and believes it would require high schools to “comply and conform” with the tougher requirements. Also, students who begin at other state colleges would have a smooth transition to transfer to UND or NDSU, he said.

“That is one of the carrots we could hold out for these students,” Shaft said.

NDSU President Dean Bresciani and UND President Robert Kelley told board members that the schools were studying the proposal. They had no further comment.

Shirvani said the idea would require that Lake Region State College, based in Devils Lake, and North Dakota State College of Science, based in Wahpeton, expand their course offerings, particularly at their satellite campuses in Grand Forks and Fargo.

John Richman, NDSCS president, said his school would need more money for expansion and an advertising campaign to show that community colleges are not viewed as second-rate.

Richman said a major donor to the school is worried about the impression that the “smart kids go there and the dumb kids go here.” He said the booster, whom he didn’t name, “has fought that image for 50 years. He is now concerned that the image is now back.”

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