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State Board of Higher Education


During June 1938, North Dakota voters passed a constitutional amendment to create a State Board of Higher Education. The amendment removed control of the state’s colleges from the Board of Administration, placing control with the new, non-political board.

The State Board of Regents, created in 1915, had authority over all public colleges and universities in North Dakota before the Board of Administration’s creation in 1919.

The initiated measure to create the State Board of Higher Education was prompted by an incident involving William Langer and the dismissal of seven North Dakota Agricultural College staff members. The dismissals caused the college to temporarily lose its accreditation.

The first seven members of the new Board of Higher Education were appointed by Governor John Moses in 1938 for seven-year terms. The Board’s first meeting was held in Bismarck on July 6, 1939.

The amendment also required Board appointment of a Commissioner of Higher Education, who would serve as the Board’s chief executive officer. Some commissioners who have served are Robert Murphy, Arthur Mead, Kent Alm and John Richardson.

The State Board of Higher Education is the policy-setting and advocacy body for the North Dakota University System. The Board makes decisions on system-wide issues, while each institution president has the authority to manage his or her own campus affairs.

One of the duties of the Board is entering into agreements with the state’s public or private institutions of higher education and those in surrounding states regarding reciprocal charges. It involves students paying resident fees, though they reside outside the state, or for students to take specialized courses at another institution, with or without payment of tuition charges there.

The Board took action in February 1990 to create the statewide university system to be headed by a chancellor, who would also serve as the system’s chief executive officer. The presidents of each of the state’s institutions report directly to the chancellor. Chancellors who have served since the position was established include John Richardson, Thomas Clifford, Douglas Treadway, Larry Isaak, Gene Kemper, Robert Potts and Bill Goetz.

Today, the State Board of Higher Education consists of seven voting citizen members, one voting student member and one non-voting faculty advisor. The Governor appoints the Board members to four-year terms. All appointments, however, must be approved by the majority vote of the state’s Senate. The voting student member is appointed for one year.

A list of potential members for the Governor’s review is compiled through approval of at least four of the following: the president of the North Dakota Education Association, the chief justice of the Supreme Court, the superintendent of Public Instruction, the president pro tempore of the Senate and the speaker of the House of Representatives. No more than two graduates from each institution are allowed.

The student member is appointed by the Governor from a list of names provided by the North Dakota Student Association. The faculty member is selected annually by the Council of College Faculties.

By Cathy A. Langemo, WritePlus Inc.