South Dakota higher education institutions plan for more collaboration to combat costs

While each new year at South Dakota's universities and tech schools brings new challenges, it’s something they plan on facing together.
Published: Aug. 22, 2022 at 6:06 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Monday is the start of a new school year for South Dakota’s public universities and technical universities. While each new year brings new challenges, it’s something they plan on facing together.

Stagnant enrollment numbers and increasing costs all around are challenges that the state’s higher education institutions say are growing quickly. At a Rotary Club of Downtown Sioux Falls meeting, leaders from the University of South Dakota, South Dakota State University, and Southeast Technical College voiced their concerns for the future of education. The solution: to work together on ways to save costs and attract new students.

Southeast Tech President Bob Griggs said they can accomplish this by making sure credits can transfer easily between technical schools and universities. That also includes collaborating programs in in-demand fields such as nursing and engineering.

“At Southeast Tech, we’re very proud and have had a long history of working locally with our four-year university partners. It’s exciting to expand upon that, doing more now with the state universities,” Griggs said. “These articulations are the foundation for those students to be able to continue their educational journey, and their career paths really from a two-year technical education to a four-year baccalaureate or masters.”

Vice President of USD Sioux Falls Jay Perry said there’s been increasing talk between the public colleges and universities in South Dakota, as well as the SDBOR and SDBOTE now more than ever. He said the path for students getting an education is changing and becoming more diverse in the state, whether they go through a two-year or four-year education. That means the easier students can make the leap from a two-year program to a four-year program in the state, the more students they can retain in the system and graduate.

“We’ve seen a lot of interest and effort from the Board of Technical Education and the Board of Regents, and the individual colleges and universities about actually moving some things forward in the last couple of years that never had happened before,” Perry said. “It’s critical for economic development and workforce development in South Dakota, for us to be collaborating between the two-year and the four-year schools.”

Those moves certainly help students with the costs of higher education, along with a tuition freeze for SDBOR and SDBOTE institutions for this academic year. But those institutions do have give and take in trying to collaborate with each other. SDSU President Barry Dunn said with dual-credits and students transferring in from tech schools, they’ve seen tuition fees drop and students spend less time at school before graduating. While those are also factors to consider, it still allows students to get their education at the cheapest costs.

“Our job is to adapt our business model, to a new reality of transferring young people in. Either from technical colleges or from dual-credit,” Dunn said. “We’re all in this together, and that’s to educate a workforce but also our communities.”