The year 2012 has been a year of changes for Minot State University.
New North Dakota University System Chancellor Hamid Shirvani assumed the position earlier this year and launched a proposal called Pathways to Student Success that promises to change both admissions standards and the way tuition is calculated at the state's colleges.
Minot State University President David Fuller, who announced this fall that he plans to retire in July 2014, said that MSU staff have been busy preparing for the upcoming changes.
Under the proposal, students would be admitted to any of the state's two year colleges. Regional universities and research-based universities would have more stringent admission standards. Students will be assigned a score based on indicators such as their high school grade point average, the number of high school courses they completed in core subject areas, and their ACT score, as well as additional points for being a North Dakota resident. High school students will be able to keep track of their scores and how close they are to meeting the admission standards for a particular college over the Internet.
Fuller said that each of the tiers the colleges are assigned to have a score range. Students who want to go to Minot State University would have to have a score of at least 170 to 190 to gain admission. Students applying to the University of North Dakota or North Dakota State University would have to have a score of 180 to 200. Students applying at any of the other four year universities in the state would need a score of at least 160 to 180.
Fuller said personnel are also working on a new per credit tuition model for Minot State. In the past, MSU has charged a blanket tuition rate for full-time students taking between at least 12 and up to 18 credits per semester. Part-time students paid a part-time rate. Under the new model, students would be charged a certain rate per credit. The chancellor's office also wants student fees blended in with the tuiton charged. Fees have been assessed separately in the past. Fuller said the chancellor has ordered that the change in tuition should not cost students any more in tuition and will not earn universities more revenue. As of the third week in December, university officials were also working on the new tuition model.
Fuller said if it works as intended, the new tuition model should make it easier for students to see what they are paying and for what and should not be more expensive.
Both those changes should begin taking effect in the fall of 2013.
Under the Pathways to Success plan, four year colleges will also stop offering remedial classes next year. Two-year colleges will take over the delivery of remedial classes, though they will continue to be offered on the four-year college campuses. Fuller said Minot State's close ties with Dakota College at Bottineau should help ease that transition.
Fuller said some of the changes will undoubtedly mean some difficulties for Minot State.
Tuiton changes also mean that Minot State will no longer be able to offer a flat rate tuition for out of state and international students, which the university had been using as a recruiting tool. In-state students will all pay the same tuition and out of state students will be charged 175 percent of in-state rates. Fuller said he had been concerned about how that would impact existing students, but the state board of higher education has agreed to grandfather in existing out of state and foreign students or those who start at the university in the fall of 2013. Those students will pay their current tuition rate for up to four years.
Fuller said the new changes also require that the univeristy halve its tuiton waiver budget, so less money is available for tuition waivers. The university is responding by looking for additional scholarships and additional incentives for students to attend Minot State.
Minot State is also facing a budget shortfall, due in part to declining enrollment in the wake of the flood of 2011. The university is facing a $1.85 million shortfall and has been required to cut 3 percent from next year's base budget.
The university will avoid filling open positions, cut the budget used to hire adjunct faculty, look at operations cost, hold back on new technology purchases and also take a close look at making class offerings more efficient. Fuller said a faculty committee will be asked to look at "prioritizing programs on campus." Classes with more than one section that have small enrollments might be consolidated into one class; classes that have been offered each semester might be offered every other semester. The goal would be to increase efficiency in areas where it is possible without affecting the quality of the program.
Despite the challenges, Minot State is a rich, diverse and strong institution that provides a high quality education and to make a significant impact on Minot, said Fuller. He said one study showed Minot State added $185 million to the economic impact on the city.