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Grand Forks Herald, January 3, 2000


Associated Press

Foes of a North Dakota university system experiment on tuition charges hope that new protests about the idea will make the Board of Higher Education leery of it.

Bismarck State College's faculty senate has voted unanimously to reject the idea, and the college's board of governors is likely to debate the subject later this month.

For the vast majority of our students, this is a tuition increase, said Lloyd Anderson, a psychology professor who is president of the BSC faculty senate. I don't think there is any way of getting around that.

North Dakota's 11 public colleges, including Bismarck State, now charge full-time students a flat tuition rate. Students who take 12 hours of classes are considered full time, but they may enroll in 18 hours or more without paying extra.

BSC administrators are drafting a proposal, to be presented to the Board of Higher Education next month, that would have students pay a per-hour tuition rate. Under the plan, taking 18 hours of classes would be more expensive than a 12-hour workload.

The change may be implemented in the fall of 2000, and its effects would be studied, with an eye toward possible use across North Dakota's university system.

Board President Jeanette Satrom said the board would listen carefully to student and faculty objections to the idea.

It's something that we're not going to take lightly, Satrom said. It influences us, definitely ... but then, I think, in the long run, we have to weigh the pros and cons, and we have to do what's best for the majority.

Dave Clark, Bismarck State's vice president for operations, said the idea has prompted considerable debate on campus, both for and against.

You're seeing individuals come down on both sides of this, Clark said. It's something that we're working through.

One reason the change has been proposed is the proliferation of course-swapping among North Dakota's public college campuses.

Dickinson State University and the UND, for example, offer classes at Bismarck State. Charging tuition by the hour will make it easier to administer those arrangements, and be less confusing for students, advocates of the change say.

Satrom said the argument carries influence.

In North Dakota, we have students that are taking classes at this campus and that campus, she said. It really gets to be a problem as to where do they pay their tuition, and should it be a flat rate, or a per-credit-hour rate.

Instructors at Bismarck State say they fear the change would derail the school's enrollment growth by driving up costs.

Among North Dakota's 11 public colleges, Bismarck State has enjoyed the most consistent increase in student numbers. About 2,700 students enrolled this fall.

Henry Riegler, a BSC psychology professor, regularly asks his students their reasons for coming to Bismarck State. Its relatively low cost - the college is less expensive than North Dakota's four-year colleges - is often mentioned, he said.

A number of students have talked to me about this, Riegler said. Many of them said they would not come back to BSC if we went to this kind of system.

Instructors at the college were also bothered that they, and BSC students, were not consulted before the idea was floated.

That was part of the objection to the whole process, Anderson said. We were just given (the tuition change idea) and told, Take it or leave it. Your opinion is not important.'