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Free College!… for 285 New Vo-Tech Students

Like Bernie Sanders, South Dakota Republicans believe in free college!

Well, free if you’re going to vo-tech in fields where their business friends say they’re short of workers. The state just announced its third round of “Build Dakota Scholarship” recipients, 285 lucky high school graduates who get to go to Southeast, Lake Area, Mitchell, or Western Dakota Tech on the house—the house being T. Denny Sanford and the Governor’s Future Fund (the latter, a.k.a., taxpayers!). “Lucky” is apt, since less than 28% of the 1,028 applicants won this full-ride scholarship for their technical studies.

85% of recipients come from South Dakota. Here’s a breakdown of the awards by state and institute:

SD 85 59 52 47 243
MN 9 4 12 25
NE 6 2 1 9
IA 2 2
ND 1 1 2
WY 2 2
GA 1 1
ID 1 1
Total Result 95 69 70 51 285

The first batch of Build Dakota Scholarship winners should have finished their two-year programs last spring and should be leaping into our workforce. Let’s keep an eye out for a report from the vo-techs and the Governor on job placement for those recipients so we can measure the effectiveness of this Sanders-esque socialism.


  1. Jenny 2017-09-08 14:04

    I don’t see very many Native American names on that list, Cory. Are the Native American schools aware of this program, especially since so much of their Gear Up Money was stolen?

  2. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-09-08 17:25

    I hate to judge based on names—there are Johnsons etc. on the reservation as well—but yes, the list does seem to be short on Native students. A cursory reading of the list shows nine towns where one might expect to see a higher proportion of Indians—Agency Village, Chamberlain, Dupree, Lake Andes, Manderson, Ravinia, Sisseton, Wagner, Wood—each sending just one scholarship recipient. Rapid City is sending 24 recipients, Waterotwn 23, Sioux Falls 18.

  3. mike from iowa 2017-09-08 18:00

    What is the criteria by which recipients are chosen? I see two of them are from iowa. I know of other iowans already awarded schollies and are going to be attending college in South Dakota.

    Looks like schollies are handed out based on % of total population which could explain why so few Native students appear to have lucked out.

  4. Jenny 2017-09-08 19:54

    For the record I think Native American last names are beautiful.

  5. grudznick 2017-09-08 20:10

    I, for one, am delighted when Mr. H and many other libbies agree with me that giving free rides to any educational institution with taxpayer dollars is a total waste and is full of corruption. Mr. H and I are in total agreement on that.

  6. grudznick 2017-09-08 22:02

    You people are coming across as so racist when most of you probably are not. There are plenty of Indians in Rapid City and Sioux Falls. And why are you not worrying about the black kids named Johnson and the German kids named Nurfenberger? You clearly know nothing about this program and assume it’s all about sending fat-cat administrators’ kids to free vo tech.

    Remember, grudznick is against all this freeloading and says everybody needs to work harder and earn money to pay their way to school. If you want to go to a real school, work harder than those who want to go to these 2 year cooking schools and such.

  7. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-09-09 11:37

    Mike, the state lists scholarship-eligible programs here. The general areas are ag, automotive, building trades, energy, engineering, health care, info tech, precision manufacturing, and welding. Applicants must show financial need and work-readiness skills. Recipients must finish their program on time and work in their chosen field in South Dakota for three years following graduation or the grant is converted to a loan at 4% interest. (The state will prorate the payback amount for amounts of in-state work less than three years.)

  8. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-09-09 11:39

    Grudz, it is not racist but reasonable to ask why there are not more Indian students heading to tech school and receiving these scholarships when Indians are the most unemployed subgroup in the state and could put a significant dent in our supposed workforce shortage if connected with the proper training.

  9. grudznick 2017-09-09 19:06

    What they should do, Mr. H, is kill this program entirely since it only gets complained about. Or, you should pass a law bill to make the race of scholarship recipients be made public to quell your concerns. Otherwise, you are just complaining about there being more Johnsons than Pretty Weasels. And I will tell you my friend Lyman Pretty Weasel tried to get his other son to go to a vo tech but the kid bucked. Won’t take education from The Man. You know the story.

  10. Chip 2017-09-09 22:41

    I wonder what percentage of SD residents are Native American?

  11. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-09-10 09:30

    Grudz, you again misportray my commentary. Who’s complaining about these scholarships? I’m just saying that our Republican leaders should give more of them, to achieve more positive social and economic goals.

  12. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-09-10 09:40

    Chip! 9.0%! That percentage will be higher among youth—from Census data, I estimate over 13%. If that percentage is close, then, if the BSD applicants and winners represented the ethnic diversity of South Dakota, we’d see about 37 American Indian scholarship winners.

  13. Mr. Lansing 2017-09-10 10:17

    It’s confusing to white people why many Indian kids don’t strive to the same ideals that white people do. It’s a different culture, folks. The South Dakota German/Scandanavian heritage is a “nose to the grindstone work ethic” and “accepting being told what to do without choices” culture and it works perfectly well for white people . SoDaksters are stubborn, thrifty, traditional, argumentative and socially cold with an odd sense of humor (if you can find one).
    Native American culture isn’t those things. Judging Indian kids by white people standards is invalid. Judging Indian kids by what German/Scandanavian heritage white kids do well is also invalid. Judge Indian kids by what Indian kids do well and you’ll be pleasantly surprised about their achievement levels and a bit jealous of what a socially aware, spiritually advanced and meaningful culture actually looks like. The Indian culture is the “Jewel Of South Dakota” and needs to be admired and polished instead of demeaned and wrongly judged, as it is now!

  14. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-09-10 18:43

    Mr. Lansing’s caution is warranted. We oversimplify matters if we see unemployment in tribal communities, a workforce shortage in the rest of South Dakota, and assume the simple solution is to truck all the reservation grads off to vo-tech to learn how to work for manufacturers in Sioux Falls, Mitchell, Aberdeen, etc.

    But are our values so different that there would be almost no American Indian BDS recipients?

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