I might like my new local Regent. Governor Dennis Daugaard appointed Jim Thares to fill hoary old Harvey Jewett’s seat on the Board of Regents just three months ago, and already Thares is giving the Governor heck. Responding to a report that high school students taking dual-credit classes are the only thing keeping South Dakota’s public universities from suffering a 7% drop in enrollment since 2010, Thares blames the Governor’s budget cuts and argues for more money for higher ed:
Regent Jim Thares of Aberdeen said several times the start of the decline in South Dakota high-school graduates attending the state universities appears to have coincided with the Legislature’s decision to reduce state funding for the state universities in 2011.
…Thares said Tuesday the public university system is a big business. “And I don’t think we tell that very well,” he said.
A report presented by Jeff Mehlhaff, a budget analyst for the Legislative Research Council, said the universities needed an additional $15.7 million annually to reach the regional average for state funding.
Jim shouldn’t let his business thinking get too out of hand: universities are public institutions, not businesses. But if a Daugaard man is willing to contend that our current administration’s stinginess has hurt our public universities and that the state needs to pick up more of the tab for young people to get a degree in South Dakota, I’m ready to back him up. Keep pushing, rookie Regent Jim Thares!
This project would enable NSU to develop plans for an on-campus facility that will provide the ability for both football and softball to compete on campus. NSU football last competed on campus in the 1930’s and softball has never competed on campus. Since the 1970’s, NSU football games have been played at Swisher Field. In 2003, the field was moved from the northeast side of Aberdeen to its current location at Aberdeen Central High School which is approximately two miles from NSU’s campus. Swisher Field is utilized by Aberdeen Central High School, Roncalli High School, NSU and Presentation College. The NSU softball team practices and competes at the Moccasin Creek Softball Complex owned by the City of Aberdeen. Utilizing off campus facilities creates scheduling issues and makes it challenging for students to participate in and attend events.
The project would include a football stadium with capacity for 8,000 spectators, a turf field, premium seating space, fan amenities, scoreboard, lights, restrooms, maintenance equipment and facilities, and media and coaching space. The sports complex would also include a softball stadium with a turf field, dugouts, fan amenities, restrooms, media pavilion, fan seating for 300, a locker room, and storage for maintenance and support services. Parking would also be included and be available for use by individuals attending events at the sports complex, the Barnett Center and to the students living in the nearby residence halls [Agenda Item 7-S: “Preliminary Facility Statement,” South Dakota Board of Regents, posted September 2017].
Assuming you think 8,000 people need a place to watch NSU football (current game site Swisher Field holds 6,000), the School for the Blind’s block, immediately south of campus and between NSU and Melgaard Park, is an ideal location for another NSU facility. It’s the only open lot adjacent to campus big enough for a football field and parking. It’s right across the street from the Barnett Center, which houses the basketball court and other sports facilities. A stadium on this site allows the campus to use existing Barnett Center parking for some of the game-day need, thus minimizing the amount of pavement we’d have to lay at a separate site.
The School for the Blind doesn’t seem to mind the proposal. They’ve been working with Northern and would trade their current site for a new, somewhat smaller facility to replace their 1961 building. The new school would go where NSU’s dorm Jerde Hall sits. The current site seems a better location for a school, since it has much more grassy space, sits right across relatively quiet 17th Street from spacious Melgaard Park, and is a bit better removed from the busy traffic that comes down State Street to NSU and May Overby Elementary. But a new building with more than two outlets in each classroom (one deficiency of the current building cited by superintendent Marjorie Kaiser in the AAN article), among other improvements:
The new School for the Blind would cost $13.6 million. Just developing the plan for the Northern stadium will cost $300,000 to $500,000; NSU hasn’t given a full cost for the new ballfield yet. NSU and the School for the Blind are telling the Regents they’ll fund both projects entirely with private dollars.
Yes, when growth is good and shrinkage is shame, we can’t expect the Regents or the campuses to headline full story on campus enrollment. Their press release about higher fall enrollment this year is all spinnage about gains at DSU and USD keeping the systemwide gain at 0.36% for the year. We get no data up front about the shrinkage that must have happened at the other four campuses to keep enrollment practically steady across the Regental system. Here’s the bar chart from the SDBOR Dashboard for all six campuses:
According to that chart, Northern ticked up a bit, too, but SDSU, BHSU, and Mines each went down. Oh well.
Permit me to do PR’s job and suggest a better lead for the story. Instead of trying to squeeze eternal-growth lemonade out of those lemony flatlines, why not move the long-term charts from the bottom of the Regental presser to the top and offer this assessment: South Dakota’s public universities have managed to maintain the record levels of enrollment achieved in the post-Recession boom for seven straight years!
That spin would never occur to typical PR people who grow up imbibing the business model of grow or die and ignoring the possibility that another definition of unbounded growth is cancer. But I would suggest that being able to maintain enrollment levels originally driven by an economic downturn in an economy chugging along with trivial unemployment figures (at least among the non-reservation population) is an achievement worth headlining.
The early college program is possible through an agreement between Harrisburg schools and the South Dakota Board of Regents.
The regents will allow the district to pay for the early college courses at the same rate as dual-credit courses, which give students both high school and college credit.
Most recently, that rate was set at about $48 per credit, deeply discounted from the approximately $300 per credit hour for South Dakota students who enroll in state universities after graduating high school.
Students, here’s your math problem to work on while you take those free college classes: Suppose you can take a full freshman year’s worth of college classes for free at Harrisburg. Calculate the lifetime savings you’ll enjoy by reducing your college loan debt by 25%. Calculate the additional savings of being able to graduate from college a year early and thus avoid the tuition increase of what would have been your fourth year on campus. Calculate the additional earning power you’ll get from entering the workforce a year earlier. Finally, calculate the additional savings you can have for your own children’s college fund 20 to 30 years from now by investing the money you save on tuition this year plus the early money you’ll make after your early university graudation at average market rates.
Or, if you take seriously my postscript to my eclipse post, just figure out how many world capitals you can visit on the money Harrisburg and the Regents will save you on college classes.
Readers, here’s your policy problem to work on today: identify anything—anything!—wrong with this great opportunity that the Harrisburg school board and the Regents are offering to high school students.
Which South Dakota public university has the most deadbeats? Proportionally to campus student revenues, DSU! So says this fun chart on student accounts receivable in Board of Regents Agenda Item 10-C:
Now this isn’t student loan debt: this is tuition, fees, fines, what have you that students have not paid for on each campus. Over four years, the systemwide rate of unpaid bills is 0.54%, compared to a national bad debt collections rate of 3.5%. So even that 1.29% rate at DSU is still pretty good compared to university students nationwide.
Oh, and don’t be alarmed by the apparent increase in accounts receivable at most campuses. For the past two years, the Regents had to put on hold their usual practice of writing off some of these debts. The Regents had to wait while the state prepped and launched its new debt collection program, the Obligation Recovery Center.
The Board of Regents will spend a little time Thursday discussing technology in the classroom, specifically electronic textbooks. Students in five classes on five campuses tried out e-text platforms from two vendors, RedShelf and VitalSource, during the spring 2017 semester. Agenda Item 9-J summarizes the results, which have led the e-Materials Committee and the Academic Affairs Council to recommend contracting VitalSource to be the sole provider of e-text services in the Regental system.
The Regents aren’t adopting VitalSource because students in the pilot went ga-ga for their e-books. In the initial survey three weeks into classes, majorities found the e-texts easy to access and use (and RedShelf got significantly more positive responses for ease of use), but over 60% of e-text users said they’d still prefer to use printed textbooks. Fourteen weeks later in a follow-up survey, that preference for print ticked up less than a point for RedShelf and dropped five points for VitalSource users, but that still left majorities of users saying they’d rather stick with print.
Just as a majority of students in the pilot program still think paper is better, a majority say they would not recommend e-texts to their peers. That result fits previous surveys showing student resistance to adopting e-texts. For perspective, the 2015 EDUCAUSE Student & IT Survey shows that more students wish their faculty made more use of recorded lectures archived online than wish their profs used more e-books:
But if a majority of students perceive e-texts negatively, the agenda memo says the Regents will just have to change that perception by emphasizing to students the significant price discounts. However, as the Regents’ memo to students in the pilot program this spring notes, the cost savings are muted:
E-texts are typically only available for a defined duration (e.g. 180 or 365 days), though some allow perpetual access. This varies depending on the platform or publisher.
E-texts cannot be sold back like used books [Student e-Text Pilot Welcome Letter, Attachment III to Agenda Item 9-J].
Can’t keep some, can’t sell any, plus, can’t share with a friend! According to the memo, our universities will attach e-texts to their courses, add a mark-up for the bookstores, and bill every enrolled student automatically.
I certainly see the merits of electronic texts. I try not to accumulate any blog documents in paper form. I like reading and marking up PDFs on my tablet. I like documents with more fluid text for my phone. But information does not stick in my head as well when it comes to me in electronic form. Books offer certain physical and visual cues—key information at the bottom of a lefthand page, toward the front or toward the back that my computers do not replicate.
But the transition is coming, kids. Watch for more e-textbooks coming to a Regental campus near you.
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?
That’s funny: I thought USD already charged students for a bar exam prep course: it’s called law school. The Regents’ move feels like a high school saying it’s going to spend money on ACT or SAT prep courses from Kaplan. Instead of letting tests measure what students learn in school, the Regents are apparently admitting USD can’t teach its own law curriculum effectively and must teach to the test, thus giving an out-of-state corporation (BARBRI is based in Dallas, Texas) a chance to cash in on our law students.
Charleston School of Law in South Carolina includes BARBRI materials in its curriculum. Charleston students who opt in to the BARBRI post-graduation seven-week review course pay $457.50 per semester… so at least USD students are getting a better deal.
Mercer does get right the story that we stagnant Dems stirred a proper kerfuffle yesterday about the Governor’s illegal appointments to the Board of Regents:
As of 2:00 p.m. CST on March 6, 2017, Board of Regents members Harvey Jewett, Kathryn Johnson, Jim Morgan, Randy Schaefer, Bob Sutton, and Kevin Schieffer were registered Republicans, and John Bastian was a registered Independent. The appointees whose nominations were to be considered by the Senate today, Pam Roberts and Conrad Adam, were both registered Republicans. Terry Baloun and Joseph Schartz, the Board of Regents members Roberts and Adams would replace were both also registered Republicans [South Dakota Democratic Party, press release, 2017.03.06].
The Senate had to call off their confirmation vote for Roberts and Adam because SDCL 13-49-2 says you can’t have more than six Regents from the same political party. As a bonus, that statute also forbids having two regents from the same county, and appointees Roberts and Adam are both registered to vote in Hughes County.
Democrats naturally see these illegal appointments as part of a broader Republican arrogance:
South Dakota Republicans seem to think they are above the law, whether it be repealing voter-backed measures months after being supported at the ballot box or by stacking state boards with Republicans in violation of state law [SDDP, 2017.03.06].
The system worked in this instance. The minority party pointed out an abuse favoring the majority party. The Senate used its confirmation authority to block two illegal appointments by the governor. It’s a good example of why two relevant political parties are important and why process matters [Bob Mercer, “On Regents Matter, Democrats Show Why Two Political Parties Are Important,” Pure Pierre Politics, 2017.03.07].
The Senate bumped the Roberts and Adam nominations to today’s calendar. According to Mercer, the Governor’s office is contending that the residency requirement doesn’t apply to the student Regent for which Adam is nominated. The Governor’s office also reports that Regent Kathryn Johnson was a Democrat when appointed a decade ago, switched to GOP last year, and switched back yesterday afternoon when this complication came to light.
A key part of the Ninth Circuit’s rejection of the White House’s poorly written, poorly targeted, and poorly justified immigration ban is the legal standing plaintiff states Washington and Minnesota have due to the negative impact of the travel restrictions on students and faculty at their public university campuses. How prominent are foreign students at South Dakota’s campuses?
53.4% of those international students are at South Dakota State University. According to university president Barry Dunn, SDSU’s 943 international students come from 89 countries. 30 of those students, as well as two faculty members, are from the seven Muslim countries targeted by the White House’s unconstitutional immigration ban. “They have enriched the Brookings community,” says President Dunn, “certainly enriched our campus.” Dunn adds that many of his foreign students are “concerned that the ban might be extended to them someday with…just the stroke of a pen.”
Northern State University has 197 international students, just one of whom comes from one of the White House’s blacklisted countries. However, as at SDSU, NSU students from other largely Muslim countries— Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, Morocco, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia—are understandably wondering if Trump is coming for them next:
Northern State University junior Nikita Nesterov is a little worried about his home country being added to the list.
“I’m really worried about it because my country is a Muslim country and I’m really worried that it’s going to be affected by these changes in the immigration process,” Nesterov said. “If something happens and my country would be on the list I will not be able to finish my degree” [Katherine Grandstrand, “NSU Watching Immigration Order’s Effect on International Students,” Aberdeen American News, 2017.01.31].
International enrollments at other campuses are 289 at USD, 173 at Mines, 110 at DSU, and 64 at BHSU.
Seventeen states have submitted friend-of-the-court briefs in Washington & Minnesota vs. Trump et al. South Dakota is not yet among them. The immigration ban affects South Dakota campuses as surely as it affects campuses in Minnesota, Washington, and the seventeen states that are supporting their lawsuit. Our Attorney General, Marty Jackley should speak for our campuses and join the lawsuit over the Executive Branch’s unconstitutional overreach.