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BSC approved for dental assistant, dental hygiene associate degree programs

The state Board of Higher Education has given Bismarck State College the go-ahead to offer associate degree programs in dental assisting and dental hygiene.

The vote was not unanimous, however.

Supporters of the program said there is a big demand for dental assistants and hygienists.

There are already a program at the North Dakota College of Science in Wahpeton. And this fall, those programs will be offered in Minot through Minot State University and the Dakota College at Bottineau.

Minot State President Steve Shirley raised concerns about BSC's proposal.

"If someone would have told me three or four years ago that, the week before you do your ribbon cutting — which, by the way, you're all invited to next Friday — there is potentially another program approved one hundred miles down the road, maybe we would have thought about a different program," Shirley told the Board.

The Minot program will use one of the old Trinity Medical Center buildings. Shirley said getting the program started has involved a lot of partners, and a lot of money.

"It's a very unique, very expensive niche program," Shirley said. "It's not like adding a marketing major, a management degree or a psychology major — this is a very specific kind of academic program. Our concern is simply insuring the long-term viability of this program."

Board Member Kevin Black made the motion to approve the BSC programs. He told the Board there’s no question about the need for these dental practitioners.

"I have high expectations of this industry, to step up and help us make these programs successful," Black said. "Being from Minot, of course I want to see Minot State successful. But we represent the state, and I think we need to lean into the challenges, and not be afraid of them."

The Board vote was 5 to 3.

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