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Board of Higher Education member questions Williston State College's partnership with U-Mary

Board of Higher Education member Kevin Black
ND University System
Board of Higher Education member Kevin Black

Some members of the state Board of Higher Education are raising questions about an agreement between Williston State College and the University of Mary, where Mary will be offering some four year degrees at WSC.

Students can get their associate degrees from Williston State. And the students can finish their four year degrees at U-Mary for under $5,000, thanks to some grant and scholarship programs through Mary. Mary will have a presence on the Williston campus.

WSC president Bernell Hirning told the Board he was presented with the idea of the U-Mary partnership when he arrived on campus.

"Regional leadership in northwest North Dakota had a strong interest in on-site bachelor's completion programs, to keep people in northwest North Dakota, and keep them from going east, getting educated, and never coming back," Hirning said.

Hirning said WSC has a number of these “articulation agreements” with other colleges in the University System.

Board member Kevin Black said he thinks the agreement with U-Mary is “problematic.” He said he understands there is a need for these kinds of arrangements. Black said he was uncomfortable partnering with a competitor.

"We have six campuses in the system that either offer one, or all four, of these programs," Black said. "To essentially ink a deal, it flies in the face of the whole point in having a system."

Black and others suggested the system office should be more involved in these kinds of arrangements. He said at least, there should have been communication with the office and with other campuses. Hirning apologized for not alerting the other campus presidents about the arrangements.

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