State Highlights

WICHE and North Dakota

Partnering for Over 30 Years
Year joined: 


► Thousands of students from North Dakota have attended undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs in other Western states through WICHE’s Student Exchange Program, saving millions of dollars, thanks to reduced tuition rates. In just one of the programs, the Western Undergraduate Exchange, North Dakota students and their families have saved over $33.7 million since 1988, when the state joined the program.

► North Dakota has received funding to be part of numerous WICHE policy initiatives, including those focused on financing and financial aid, workforce policy, and other areas.

► North Dakota has participated in WICHE initiatives related to distance education, workforce development, and behavioral health.

Return on Investment.

► In 2015-16 North Dakota, its institutions, and its students saved or brought in some $2.9 million through WICHE and spent $141,000 for membership in the commission, yielding a 21-fold return on investment.

► In the last 5 years, North Dakota savings from WUE alone total more than $6.2 million, yielding a 9-fold return on the state’s investment in WICHE.

Student Savings
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Programs and Participation.

State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA). SARA is a voluntary, nationwide initiative of states that will make distance education courses more accessible to students across state lines and make it easier for states to regulate and institutions to participate in interstate distance education. The effort initially was funded by $3.2 million in grants from Lumina Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and is now supported by fees paid by institutions. The initiative is administered by the country’s four regional higher education compacts – the Midwestern Higher Education Compact (MHEC), the New England Board of Higher Education (NEBHE), the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) and the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) – and overseen by The National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA). States and institutions that choose to participate agree to operate under common standards and procedures, providing a more uniform and less costly regulatory environment for institutions, more focused oversight responsibilities for states and better resolution of student complaints. North Dakota was among the first WICHE/MHEC states to become a member of SARA in this reciprocal relationship.

North Dakota is active in all three WICHE Student Exchange Programs: the Western Undergraduate Exchange, the Professional Student Exchange Program, and the Western Regional Graduate Program. In 2015-16 North Dakota’s students and families saved over $2.5 million. North Dakota saved money, too, through not having to establish and maintain costly programs in a number of areas, including some in healthcare.

Western Undergraduate Exchange. North Dakota students have enrolled in undergraduate programs beyond North Dakota’s borders through the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) since 1988. In 2015-16, 326 students from North Dakota were enrolled in out-of-state programs at reduced rates (150 percent of resident tuition), saving $1.3 million in tuition and fees – the average student savings amounted to $4,105. In the last 10 years, students have saved over $13.2 million.

North Dakota benefits from WUE in another way: by receiving students from out of state. North Dakota’s institutions can choose how many out-of-state slots to offer and in which areas, allowing them to make the best use of their resources by accepting students in underenrolled programs. There’s a workforce benefit for the state, too, as students often stay in North Dakota after graduating. In 2015-16 North Dakota received 2,098 students through WUE.

Professional Student Exchange Program. North Dakota has sent 424 students to professional programs through the Professional Student Exchange Program (PSEP), with students studying in a host of critical fields, including dentistry, optometry, and veterinary medicine. In addition, in 2015-16 the state received 17 students and $407,610 in support fees from other Western states.

Western Regional Graduate Program. North Dakota’s postgraduates also participate in graduate programs through the Western Regional Graduate Program (WRGP), which offers access to 380 high-quality, distinctive programs (“distinctive” meaning they’re offered at only four or fewer institutions in the WICHE region) at 60 institutions in all WICHE states. WRGP programs run the gamut, but emerging social, environmental, and resource-management fields are particular strengths, as are innovative interdisciplinary programs. In 2015-16 North Dakota sent 22 students to out-of-state institutions, while receiving 12.

The Interstate Passport is an outcomes-based framework for block transfer of lower division general education. Developed by faculty, registrars, institutional researchers, and academic advisors at two- and four-year institutions in seven states (California, Hawaii, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming), the framework addresses barriers to degree completion posed by uneven transfer policies and practices across states. Institutions in four other WICHE states (Colorado, Idaho, Montana, and New Mexico) and additional states outside the region are involved in its Phase III expansion and scaling efforts to build a nationwide infrastructure supporting friction-free transfer for Passport students. By earning a Passport, students who transfer to another Passport institution will have their learning recognized regardless of differences in course titles and credits, and will not be required to repeat courses to meet general education requirements.  

WICHE’s Added Value.

North Dakota gains added value from WICHE’s programs in policy, workforce development, technology, mental health, and other areas.

Policy & Workforce Development.

North Dakota has participated in projects supporting better-informed decision making at the state level. WICHE initiatives have been sponsored by the Ford Foundation, Lumina Foundation for Education, the U.S. Department of Education, and others. WICHE policy experts often visit the state to present or consult on a number of vital issues, including the state’s workforce needs and balancing the financial aid portfolio.

The implementation of the Common Core Standards (CCSS) or other similar academic standards is well underway in most states, and the corresponding assessment systems are went live in this academic year. As implementation continues, there are a variety of challenges that K-12 and higher education leaders will face in the coming years related to student movement across state lines. To begin the conversation about these challenges, WICHE, with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, convened higher education and K-12 leaders from the Western region and additional bordering states in October 2014. North Dakota was one of 17 states along with the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands to participate.

WICHE staffers have worked with North Dakota in a variety of areas. Former WICHE President David Longanecker testified before the Legislature on performance-funding activities around the country and opportunities in this area for the state.

North Dakota was also a member of WICHE’s College Access Challenge Grant (CACG) Network, which allowed the Bank of North Dakota the opportunity to learn from other states, share best practices and lessons learned, and receive current evidence-based research.

The Adult College Completion (ACC) Network, funded by Lumina Foundation, is a 750 member learning network that unites organizations and agencies working to increase college completion by adults with prior college credits but no degree. Activities include an annual workshop, a webinar series, publications, a listserv, and other resources. The ACC Network and WICHE have become national leaders in the area of adult learners and continue to be an important resource to those who strive to better serve non-traditional students.

The State Higher Education Policy Database (SHEPD) is WICHE’s online searchable database. It provides state and national policymakers, education leaders, practitioners, and education consumers with an inventory of state-level policies and resources in key policy issue areas related to access and success in higher education. It contains a blog and an electronic SHEPD alert distribution list to keep subscribers current on important updates. A related resource is the Policy Publications Clearinghouse, a depository of publications, reports, and briefs related to higher education. 

Additionally, Mayville State University, Minot State University, North Dakota State University, the University of North Dakota, and Valley City State University are part of the Western Academic Leadership Forum (the Forum), whose members address regional higher education issues and engage in resource sharing. The Western Alliance for Community College Academic Leaders (the Alliance) brings academic leaders of community colleges and technical schools and systems together with state governing and coordinating boards associated with two-year institutions to exchange ideas and information, share resources and expertise, and collaborate on regional initiatives. Williston State College is a member.


Several North Dakota colleges and universities are active participants in the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET), the leader in the practice, policy, and advocacy of technology-enhanced learning in higher education. WCET is widely recognized as one of the most informative, reliable and forward-thinking organizations regarding the role of technology and innovation in higher education. Our growing membership includes more than 350 institutions, state and system-wide higher education agencies, nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and corporations in nearly all U.S. states and many Canadian provinces. WCET member institutions actively serve more than 4 million college students taking all or part of their academic programs via technology. WCET members have access to trusted information on emerging trends, policies, and exemplars of successful learning technology innovation in practice. Key WCET activities include an annual meeting, leadership summits, national webcasts, and email list-based discussions among members. Major topics of interest to the WCET membership include student success, faculty success, managing e-learning, emerging technologies and evolving policy issues.

Mental Health.

WICHE has worked with the Area Health Education Centers in North Dakota around improving community providers’ capacities to meet the needs of Veterans, Guard, and Reserve military and their families. In April, WICHE participated in training co-sponsored by the South Dakota and Nebraska AHECs to build community partnerships to serve our Veterans.

Former Commissioners.

Larry Skogen, interim chancellor, North Dakota University System; Duaine Espegard, member State Board of Higher Education; Ham Shirvani, former chancellor North Dakota University System; David E. Nething, former state senator, Jamestown; William Goetz, chancellor, North Dakota University System; Pamela J. Kostelecky, former member, State Board of Education; Eddie Dunn, former chancellor of the North Dakota University System; Robert Potts, former chancellor of the North Dakota University System; Richard Kunkel, former member, State Board of Higher Education; Michel Hillman, vice chancellor for academic and student affairs, North Dakota State University System; Larry Isaak, president, Midwestern Higher Education Compact, and former chancellor of the North Dakota University System; Roy Hausauer, retired state representative from Wahpeton; Joe Peltier, former president of the North Dakota Board of Education; and John Richardson, former chancellor, North Dakota University System president.