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:
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.
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:
“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.