The future looks bright for colleges and universities in North Dakota.
That was the crux of the message delivered by North Dakota University System Chancellor Dr. Hamid Shirvani, when he spoke at the 86th annual meeting of the Devils Lake Chamber of Commerce held at Lake Region State College.
"We have 11 great institutions," Shirvani told the large gathering, "but, throughout the system we have work to do."
The chancellor explained that recent studies project North Dakota's population to increase by an estimated 20 percent by the end of the current decade. He added that 70 percent of the projected 120,000 new jobs will require a college education and it is the mission of the his board to make sure students from the state are properly prepared to enter the workforce over the next several years.
"A large number of North Dakota students entering college are not prepared," Shirvani said.
He explained that seven percent of incoming freshman at the state's two research universities, the University of North Dakota and North Dakota State University, had a ACT score of less than 18 and that few students complete their education in four years.
"That creates a larger cost to taxpayers and to the students and their parents," said the chancellor, who outlined ways to entice students to complete college earlier.
He said one way was to increase the standards in all grades K-12 and by doing so would better prepare students for college.
"That creates a better educated workforce," Shirvani said, "one perpetuates the other."
He also encouraged students to take more enhanced classes while in high school to increase their chances of acceptance to the college of their choice as admission standards are likely to undergo strict changes in the coming years.
Shirvani also said that the two research universities will begin enticing students to take larger class loads by waiving tuition for anything over 15 credits per semester and would allow students to graduate earlier and enter the workforce.
The five state colleges in the state would still charge tuition per credit, while the community colleges in North Dakota, including Lake Region State College, would base their tuition on the cost of the programs the students are enrolled in.
"The Board has approved many of these changes," Shirvani said, "now, it's just a matter of implementing those changes. They are changes that will help raise the quality of education in North Dakota."