Report to Regents: Convert SF University Center to 4,000-Student Community College

In August 2015, the Board of Regents discussed declining enrollment at the Sioux Falls University Center. At the time, they worked up the idea of focusing our big-city satellite campus on cheaper certificates and two-year degrees dictated by local labor market needs.

Bob Mercer notes that the Regents have now spent $90,000 on a consultant from New Hampshire to tell them what they need to hear to carry out that conversion of the Sioux Falls University Center into a community college, or essentially, a slightly more academic version of Southeast Technical Institute.

The report the Regents will consider this week recommends that the University Center add more associate-level programs and award two-year degrees and certificates through USD in addition to its bachelor’s and master’s degrees through USD, SDSU, and DSU. The new programs should focus on producing workers in health care, financial and business services, manufacturing, and information technology:

FutureWorks, report to SDBOR, 2017.06.01, p. vii.
FutureWorks, report to SDBOR, 2017.06.01, p. vii.

To keep the UC focused on filling gaps in the “talent pipeline” (remember: workers are but one more substance poured into the industrial machine), the report recommends a new board to “guide” the new UC community college (SFUCCC, right?). The “Community Strategy and Steering Board” would include employers, industry associations, community-civic organizations, development organizations, city officials, and K-12 education who would make the new UC “an institution responsive to Sioux Falls.”

Several of my non-metro readers might raise an eyebrow at the notion of creating a Regental institution that’s responsive to the needs of one city rather than the entire state. However, as the consultant points out, Sioux Falls has “thirty percent of the state’s population and thirty-four percent of its employment base.” About a third of Sioux Falls high school graduates don’t enroll in college within 16 months of graduation, and a big chunk of Sioux Falls workers don’t have any kind of degree. If the Regents want to meet their goal of getting degrees of some sort in the hands of 65% of South Dakotans, they can’t ignore the traditionally underserved Sioux Falls market.

The focus on Sioux Falls coincides with a focus on USD:

While the current Memorandum of Understanding between USD, DSU and SDSU identifies USD as the lead managerial entity for the UC, we recommend that this agreement be strengthened to clarify USD’s role as the sole governing authority for the New UC.2 USD, under the purview of the South Dakota Board of Regents, should oversee the operations of the New UC and develop an array of needed certificate and associate degree programming at the New UC aligned with Sioux Falls’ needs. This is a necessary step to provide USD a clear mandate and responsibility to re-shape and refocus the New UC. Other regental institutions will continue to offer programs and award degrees in partnership with the New UC. These partners should be the institutions of first choice for program design and delivery if they can meet the intent of the mission, vision and values to serve Sioux Falls students and employers [FutureWorks, 2017.06.01, pp. viii–ix].

The report notes that undergraduate plus graduate headcount at the SFUC dropped from 2,041 in fall 2010 to 1,200 in fall 2016. Convert to a community college, focus on Sioux Falls industry needs, put USD in charge, and the new UC can enroll 400 students in its new programs in its first year, 1,800 by year six, and ultimately a sustained headcount of 4,000 students corresponding to full-time-equivalent enrollment of 2,500. Those new students will require 30 new full-time instructors and 56 part-time instructors. That expansion will cost just about $13,000 per student, or ultimately $32 million per year.

FutureWorks, report to SDBOR, 2017.06.01, p. ix.
FutureWorks, report to SDBOR, 2017.06.01, p. ix.

The report gently suggests that “The development of adequate operational funding for the New UC will be a challenge in the absence of additional statewide funding for education,” which is code for, Legislature! If you want workforce development in Sioux Falls, get ready to pay for it! (Hmm… do you suppose Speaker Mickelson will be willing to share some of his vo-tech tobacco tax with the new UC community college?)

The report doesn’t line-item its expectation of the Legislature, but it does suggest that “State and Local Appropriations” should cover 47% of the cost while students carry 30% through tuition:

FutureWorks, report to SDBOR, 2017.06.01, p. 23.
FutureWorks, report to SDBOR, 2017.06.01, p. 23.

“Local” appropriations—Sioux Falls City Council? Sioux Falls School District? Are you ready to chip in for your city’s community college?

The Sioux Falls University Center report is Item 8-H, in the middle of the Regents’ Thursday agenda for this week’s meeting in Aberdeen.

19 Responses to Report to Regents: Convert SF University Center to 4,000-Student Community College

  1. Steve Hickey

    Mickelson Community College. I called it a couple years ago, and told him that would be the name.

  2. For the record, I’m a current student at the UC, and my home school is SDSU. I’m also a non-traditional student. What attracted me to going to the UC was that I could get a bachelor’s degree from an accredited state school without having to make the 50 mile commute to Brookings every day. Most of my classmates are either non-traditional students like myself many of whom work full-time, or people right out of high school who are either taking their general ed classes at the UC to save money or decided to do their entire program in Sioux Falls to save money.

    What the regents and the report are missing is that there are people who want to get that degree from SDSU or USD or DSU, but for whatever reason, cannot commute to campus. It could be that they work full-time or that they can’t afford the commute from Sioux Falls to Brookings, Vermillion, or Madison, especially if they have to do it 5 days a week. Or they need child care and can’t find any. The UC is perfect for those people and people like me. The class sizes are smaller and less intimidating for someone who has been away from school for a long time.

    What I think the regents also need to do is make it easier for people who can’t or don’t want to commute complete their 4 year degrees in any program that their home university offers, not just the ones listed on the UC’s website. I think they also need to consider offering more graduate programs. Maybe not at the doctoral level, but I’m sure that there are masters’ programs that could be done in Sioux Falls. There are jobs that require higher level degrees than an associate degree in Sioux Falls that are not being filled, too. Perhaps instead of trying to recruit people from out of state to fill those, the Powers that Be might want to look inside their own borders because there are people who want to work in these jobs, but don’t have the necessary degrees.

  3. mike from iowa

    How many more community colleges do you need to teach guest workers to milk cows? Or slop hogs in Cafos?

  4. Terry Sullivan

    This mission creep is a direct confrontation with Southeast Technical Institute’s mission. Most if not all program areas suggested are already successfully offered through STI. Such duplication of efforts and competition between two public entities is not in the best interest of either institution nor the taxpayers who must foot the bill!

  5. Don Coyote

    @mia: “How many more community colleges do you need to teach guest workers to milk cows? Or slop hogs in Cafos?”

    While South Dakota has a vo-tech system it doesn’t have a state supported community college system. In fact South Dakota is the only state in the nation that doesn’t have a community college system.

  6. mike from iowa

    So what was yer point???????????

  7. Roger Elgersma

    Terry is right. Do not make one take the place of the other or you will get another problem. Is it possible to have a great program that has met the needs of a lot of non trads and continue it even if it is not growing at the moment. Five years ago it was smaller and we thought it was a great thing, still is. We do not need to find ways to spend more money when we had good programs and they just are not quite as much in demand anymore. They might be again when the economy slows. If we have a few less professors, a few less students and spend a little less money without continuing to build more buildings is ok since the needs are met and the taxpayer is not necessarily looking for spending a lot of money just so some administrator can feel like they are successful. When ever the economy takes its next downturn we will have unemployed people looking to better themselves. In the mean time, let them work at a job they are already trained for.

  8. Doesn’t SF have private community colleges that offer two-year degree programs? Where did the 841 students who left the UC over six years go?

    Why isn’t South East Technical handling this load? I thought during the last legislative session Speaker Mickelson lead the charge to strip SD vocational institutions of their collective bargaining rights so that they could become “more nimble.” Why can’t the “newly nimble” vocational schools respond to this need for clearly identified program delivery?

  9. Kathy, I”m glad you’re able to get what you need without having to put 100+ miles on your car every day and lose two productive hours to the drive. From what you see in the report and what you know from your own experience on campus, can the Regents continue to provide students like you adequate service while expanding the facility into a community college?

  10. Porter Lansing

    Congrats, Kathy. You make me proud to be from SoDak.
    ExPat Advice (free advice is worth the price … nothing) however, South Dakota should bend over backwards and give anything necessary to get high tech companies into Sioux Falls. I’m not recruiting but there are many many unfilled code writing jobs in CO, entry level starts at $80,000. SoDak is paying to train Colorado’s code writers and that’s a brain drain that’s devastating. Creating a high tech campus in SF, where video games, software applications, aerospace designs etc. could find a happy home would be a quite proper direction for TIF’s.

  11. Terry Sullivan

    South Dakota needs to take a good, hard, long look at what it requires from its publicly funded post-secondary institutions. As a small populated state, South Dakota already has 6 universities and 4 technical institutes serving the public. Why the Board of Regents feels the state has to be saved by forging ahead with still another publicly funded entity, a community college, is beyond comprhension. The 4 technical institutes are nationally recognized for their associate degree programs and services. The Regents attempt to enter this field through the backdoor will only cause a duplicity of programs and needless expense in order to save face for an already failed effort in Sioux Falls. Whatever the rationale for this proposal, South Dakota does not need 3 forms of effort, Universities, Technical Institutes, and Community Colleges to meet workforce needs. “Do what you do best, and leave the rest to others.”

  12. There are simply some programs and degrees STI is not accredited to offer. While there is an opportunity for UC and STI to work together, the two have much different missions.

  13. UC was originally created to help students like Kathy achieve their academic and career goals. And the reason it was done in Sioux Falls was because it is the largest market in the state, with the largest population of non-degreed workers. Assuming we all benefit from a more educated, more productive workforce, UC has a role to fill that cannot be filled by the technical schools.

  14. I see what Suka’s saying about the very different missions of Southeast and UC, two year tech vs. four-year degrees. But thinking of what Terry’s saying, if we need to add two-year degree offerings, can’t Southeast and the other vo-techs cover that base while UC focuses on being the four-year outlet in Sioux Falls?

  15. Terry Sullivan

    Cory, your suggestion makes good sense, but the University system tried the 4 yr completion route in Sioux Falls and it failed miserably. . . That’s why all the new brick and mortar sitting half-empty needs a new waxing. Sioux Falls is replete with other failed entities that felt they could do it better than STI, or Sioux Falls College, or Augustana College in their educational programming. Where are all of the rest of them now? Along the lines of your suggestion, Cory, If anyone wishes to authenticate and imitate a successful model, they could look at Wisconsin’s highly acclaimed higher education system. By agreement, the technical colleges offer programs up to and including the associate degree level, but any programming beyond the associate degree is within the purvey of the UW University System. (Wisconsin does have 2 yr UW Extension campuses, but their mission is simply college transfer). Both entities get along splendidly as they’re not in competition with each other.

  16. Terry, the report discusses marketing… which always raises alarm bells for me. The report seems to ignore the fact you lay out, that the four-year-campus model hasn’t worked in Sioux Falls, and hints at the age-old fallacy that we can make it work with better advertising, a fallacy generally most fervently pitched by folks who stand to make a buck off advertising.

    Maybe there are more Kathy Ks, from the top of our thread here, who could benefit from an expanded Regental campus presence in Sioux Falls. But what’s stopping those other Kathy Ks from enrolling at UC right now? Do we really have to build a whole new drinking hole and lead those thirsty horses to it… or are there just not that many horses thirsty for regental water?

  17. Terry Sullivan

    Cory, I wrote an article prior to my retirement for the Community College Journal tracing the history of two year colleges in South Dakota. In it, I described how the University system had many opportunities to develop 2 yr workforce training programs early in its own development and prior to the founding of the vo-tech schools in the late 1960’s, but the system shunned those work-ready programs in favor of capturing students and fees for four years rather than just two. Look back if you will, and see how few associate degree programs were/are offered system-wide by the Regental System. Despite all that’s been said about the paucity of 4 yr degreed people in South Dakota, the fact remains. . . 75% of all jobs do not require a 4 yr college degree. People throughout our country are realizing that two year associate degree pograms provide immediate skills training at less cost and serve as gateways to well-paying employment. Seeing the popularity of 2 yr programs and their failing bachelor of science enrollments, the University Center suddenly wants back in. However, there’s a fly in the ointment, Southeast Technical Institute is already there, since 1967 (50 years), and has filled that void serving not only Sioux Falls but also the region and state’s needs. The TI’s are very similar to community colleges around the country, save for one thing, college transfer degrees (i.e., associate of science and associate of arts degrees). Their main mission is providing for employment. . . And isn’t that what everyone, students and employers, need right now? Their associate of applied science degrees are now widely accepted for college transfer nowadays thereby serving a dual purpose, work and further education if so desired.
    And so it seems Cory that you have it correct, the Regents will continue to beat the bushes to justify their continued existence in Sioux Falls. After all, someone needs to foot the bill for all the brick and mortar adorned there. I worry what will happen to all of the TI’s if this move is allowed to happen. It may mean the demise of them all as they are the orphans of the state, traditionally not well represented by SD powerbrokers and largely treated with benign neglect by the legislature and Governor’s Office. Everyone loses in this scenario.

  18. What year did CCJ publish that article, Terry? I might be able to find it at NSU.

    The consultant’s report emphasizes the need to have industry demand drive the offerings at the new UC, just like we’ve structured the new vo-tech board to do. Will the Regents be satisfied with letting industry drive the degrees if they say what you just said—”Hey, 75% of jobs just need two-year degrees!”—and demand 2-year programs with no regard for transferability and on-ramping to 4-yr degrees?

    Curious, Terry: with Mark Mickelson successfully pushing the amendment to create the new separate vo-tech board, and now with Mickelson willing to push by initiative a new tobacco tax to send more money to the vo-techs, is that “benign neglect”/orphan status ending? Are the Regents pushing this plan because they see political and business support shifting to the vo-techs that can more quickly meet business’s immediate labor demands?

  19. Terry Sullivan

    Cory, here is the link to the Community College Journal. .

    I am hopeful the new attention driven by Mark Mickelson will result in a stronger presence for the technical institutes. I do believe the technical institutes have survived and succeeded long enough to be a problem for the Board of Regents. The TI’s have always responded to business and industry demands through employer represented advisory committees. Every program has one. One has to wonder if the consultants who billed the University Center $90,000 ever set foot into South Dakota to do an evvironmental scan. All of the above programs recommended in the study, except one or two, are already offered in one or more of the technical institutes. Perhaps the Regents believe they can perform them better by calling themselves a community college, but I think not.