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Board of Higher Education talks tenure, FAFSA

Tenure continues to be a point of discussion and debate in the North Dakota University System.

During the 2023 Legislative session, a bill was introduced to change and eliminate tenure at Dickinson State University and Bismarck State College, allowing the presidents to more easily fire faculty. That bill was defeated. But the discussion remains – and the focus of a Board of Higher Education ad-hoc committee is in looking to what happens after tenure is granted.

"We believe in tenure," said Board member Casey Ryan, who chairs the ad-hoc committee. "But tenure has to be a process that has meaning."

One of the suggestions the committee is considering is that 50 percent of the new hires at the two-year community colleges would not be on a tenure track. But the faculty advisor to the Board, Dr. Lisa Montplaisir of NDSU, told the Board the 50 percent recommendation for the two-year institutions is causing concern among faculty in the System.

"There is conversation about what that looks like for the institution's mission, and what their hires are," Montplaisir told the Board. "Not a carte-blanche, saying if someone retires, or leaves, in a tenured position, that it cannot be. But the institution needs to look at every position independently, to see what meets the needs of the institution for their mission and vision, and recognizing that not all positions are going to necessarily be replaced by tenured positions, but not saying they can't be."

Board chair Tim Mihalick said he does believe there is a place for the tenure track, but the post-tenure review is an important discussion.

"I think it gives presidents the ability to replace somebody that's non-performing," Mihalick said.


The Board also received an update on "FAFSA" — "Free Application for Federal Student Aid" — and the challenges the program has had recently.

A new form was supposed to make it easier to complete. But the rollout of the new forms was plagued by delays, technical problems and miscalculations. And as a result, colleges had to push back enrollment deadlines. The glitches stopped some low income or first-time students from applying through FAFSA.

But Chancellor Mark Hagerott told the Board the state's Congressional delegation and Gov. Doug Burgum got involved in the FAFSA issue.

"We're now number two in the nation on mitigating a rolling disaster out of Washington, DC," Hagerott said. He also credited the System director of financial aid, Brenda Zastoupil. And he told the Board Zastoupil actually applied for a grant to help deal with FAFSA issues.

"We just received $100,000 for outreach on students who haven't applied," Hagerott said. "So we're continuing the full-court press."

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