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Maher Files SB 55 to Consolidate BHSU/Mines Administration

Senator Ryan Maher’s plan to consolidate administration at Black Hills State University and the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology is online! The Legislative Research Council posted Senate Bill 55 yesterday. As expected, SB 55 is a lonely little bill: Senator Maher could find no co-sponsors willing to face the slings and arrows of Rapid City and Spearfish interests (not to mention similarly interested folks in Aberdeen, Madison, Vermillion, and Brookings) who will revolt at any precedent for downsizing their campi.

SB 55 doesn’t require any consolidation; it just directs the Regents to identify administrative services that may be shared and estimate short-term and long-term savings that may accrue. SB 55 carefully limits the scope of any proposed cuts to “ensure that only administrative services of the two institutions are shared and that the history, heritage, mission, traditions, educational offerings, athletic programs, foundation, alumni association, and every other aspect of each individual institution is maintained.”

SB 55 would have the Regents come up with their own targets, but Senator Maher has distributed this table showing the salaried administrators at each institution that are motivating his thinking:

Black Hills State University Salary Title
Laurie Stenberg Nichols $254,490 Interim President
Chris Crawford $181,527 Provost/VP Academic Affairs
Lois Flagstad $131,059 VP Enrollment and Student Affairs
Steve Meeker $153,931 VP University advancement
Gene Bilodeau $102,212 Executive Director BHSU-Rapid City
Corinne Hansen $90,855 Director, University and Community Relations
Jhett Albers $104,425 Athletic Director
Salary Total BHSU $1,018,499
South Dakota School of Mines Salary Title
Jim Rankin $358,176 President
Lance Roberts $206,770 Interim Provost/ VP Academic Affairs
Patricia Mahon $146,709 Dean of Students, VP Student Development
Joel Lueken $107,994 Director of Athletics
Ann Brentlinger $81,669 Director of Marketing and Communications
Jerilyn Roberts $106,649 Director of Facilities & Risk Management
Steve Malott $139,939 Interim VP for Finance & Administration
Kelsey O’Neill $90,000 Interim Associate VP of Human Resources
Ralph Davis $217,500 VP for Research
Salary Total SDSM $1,455,406

Senator Maher also points to this Board of Regents chart of how much the Regents are spending per full-time-equivalent student at each campus:

BOR spending per student FTE, Sen. Maher 2020.01.21
BOR spending per student FTE, provided by Sen. Maher, 2020.01.21

According to this chart, Black Hills State appears to spend the least per student among our public campi, even less than our largest campus, SDSU, where one would think the benefits of an economy of scale would give us the lowest costs per student. Mines is competing with Northern for the highest per student spending.

SB 55 will go to Senate Appropriations for raucous debate and a swift death.


  1. Troy 2020-01-22 10:13

    I hope the death is long and tortuous.

    Higher Education is facing changes with regard to expectations of students and their future employers (frankly, outside of certain technical degrees like engineering and in the medical fields, the quality of the product from the BOR is so substandard too many graduates in too many fields have employment prospects frightenly similar to what they had upon high school graduation) to which responses are critical if it wants to remains relevant. Shallow proposals to save some expenses will only accelerate the decline.

    This is a time when creative leadership is required at each institution. Not less.

  2. Ska Sunka 2020-01-22 12:55

    Troy’s generalization is patently absurd and erroneous on so many levels.

  3. o 2020-01-22 13:08

    Funny, I though something like this would have hit school districts first. It appears that school consolidation at the K-12 level is still a third-rail, but forcing a consolidation of resources is open for discussion at the regental level.

  4. Porter Lansing 2020-01-22 14:51

    If Maher and Troy Jones are serious about cost savings there are tens of thousands of highly educated and fully qualified future administrators in India willing work for half the salary outlay. If you seriously want to save money and don’t care about people, do the right thing and outsource these positions. If not, just stop it.

  5. Moses6 2020-01-22 15:34

    lets see merge all the colleges into one and have one great big school sell off the assets land and buildings etc, compete at the best division one school.Hire cheap teachers for half the pay quit offering education courses as our teachers are making way more out of State, so tell them to go there for an education.What you Say? Change our motto for the state to say we came to die not to buy.

  6. Dicta 2020-01-22 16:35

    Troy makes some fair points here. Higher education is roughly 300% more expensive for me than my parents (when adjusted for inflation). This debt cannot be discharged in bankruptcy and is preventing people from purchasing homes until later in life, if ever. Something has to change. The federal government’s backing of student debt has caused outrageous rent seeking behavior on the part of universities and is destroying the futures of our kids. Pedagogical ends aren’t sufficient anymore; job prospects are an essential part of this calculus based in large part on how expensive it is now.

    This is less damning in South Dakota, however. SDBOR has done a fair job keeping expense to students down (in person, anyway; online not so much). Given that, I think Troy’s stance is way too aggressive for the state we are in.

  7. John 2020-01-22 18:47

    Spot on Rep Maher & Troy. Higher ed costs increased 300% and the value of a higher education miserably failed to keep up. Half the jobs held by 4-year grads do not require a 4-year degree. The US wildly over-subscribes college. In doing so, saddles the middle class with un-dischargable debt. The US college grads remain at about 35% of the adult population for decades. The US has about 6% of its youth in trade schools — while that rate is 59% in Germany. The US needs to re-order its economy to work for us citizens – not the corporations, not the comfortable bureaucratic administrators, not the loan officers and not the banksters.
    Next, admin consolidation with DSU & SDSU. The long term goal being 1 state university system distributedly managed and executed. Artificial intelligence allows the increase in management efficiencies, effectiveness, and service delivery. For example IBM reduced its HR staff by nearly 40%, and in the process increased salaries on those remaining.

  8. Porter Lansing 2020-01-22 19:22

    I disagree, John. The value of a higher education has never been more valuable. Not in SD but we liberal states with booming economies do appreciate you Republican states training our new workers. 59% of Germans go to trade school because after 4th grade kids are separated according to their academic ability and the wishes of their families. They attend Hauptschule, Realschule, or Gymnasium. Realschule leads to trade school. Gymnasium leads to University.
    Republicans in SD spent all last summer fixated on upsetting the Universities, demanding that conservative professors be hired and that “free speech” be embraced. That failed and now it’s become “consolidate the colleges”? Fat chance. It’s more whining from people who made bad life choices blaming those who went to liberal oriented university, for those lazy, whiner’s problems.

  9. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2020-01-22 20:08

    O, I suspect K-12 consolidation touches the small-town nostalgia nerve, while consolidating college campuses and especially college administration doesn’t poke as directly at our South Dakota sense of self-identity. Even our small-town universities are inevitably “urban.” Generally, college life is city life, and college administrators are city slickers.

  10. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2020-01-22 20:10

    Just curious: is it really higher ed that has failed to keep up with the needs of employers, or is it wages, discounted by employers and diverted to CEOs and stock portfolios, that have failed to keep up with the value college-educated workers bring to the workplace?

  11. Debbo 2020-01-22 21:29

    Troy, do you have statistical support for this, or is it just your opinion? “the quality of the product from the BOR is so substandard too many graduates in too many fields have employment prospects frightenly similar to what they had upon high school graduation.”

    One of the costs that has added considerably to college costs is more administrative hires. Those hires are generally to take care of students unprepared to care for themselves. Those students generally come from wealthier families and they lack knowledge for tasks of daily living and coping with interpersonal relationships, time management, etc. There are also more mental health services provided, perhaps for the first time at many campi.

    At the University of Minnesota and other DI institutions, services for students have blossomed and are responsible for the greatest share of administrative growth. The luxurious living builders have provided for rich kids on the edges of campuses is astounding. The demand for the extra services has come almost entirely from middle and upper class families.

  12. Troy 2020-01-23 13:41


    It is my professional experience in companies where I’m involved. Their skills are remedial at best where the cost to hire a recent college grad is prohibitive when one considers the wholesale lack of productivity relative to salary and their low odds of completing the probation period, even in this low unemployment environment. Accounting grads who don’t know the basics of cost accounting, finance majors who didn’t know there are direct and indirect cash flow methods, etc. are just some of examples I know directly.

    30 years ago, I had a B-school prof who taught a last year Finance class. He had a test he called “The 187 things every B-School grad must know.” 187 to make the point there are things not on the test. He gave out the test the first day and you had two weeks to come in and take the two hour test. If you got above a certain number (I think we could get 10 wrong so it was pretty basic), you got enough extra credit to move you one letter grade in the class. If you didn’t get that number, you took the same test at the end but if you didn’t get the number, he docked you a letter grade (said he’d be doing us a favor if he flunked us). I wish I had that test but I’d be shocked if today’s B-School grads could get half right.

  13. Debbo 2020-01-23 13:56

    Interesting. Thanks Troy.

    It’s surprising to me that such should be the case in a “hard” field, as opposed to liberal arts that are sometimes considered “soft.” I don’t have much experience with hard studies, but I thought there were specific skills and knowledge that must be mastered at each level. Apparently, I’m mistaken.

    Why would this be the case in SD? Is it so in other states as well?

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