The Board of Regents made a heck of a good decision today. Meeting by teleconference today, the Regents turned back a 2% tuition increase and decided to hold tuition steady for the upcoming academic year.
Five of our university presidents lined up to advocate the zero-increase:
University of South Dakota president Sheila Gestring, Northern State University president Tim Downs and South Dakota State University president [Barry Dunn] said it would be better to make a decision now.
They pointed out that students and families are already making plans, and university counselors are assembling financial-aid packages.
…“I think we’ve been late on some of the decisions compared to our peer institutions around us,” SDSU’s Dunn said. “I think it’s an opportunity for us to lead.”
…Dakota State University president Jose-Marie Griffiths said she was “in full agreement” with holding tuition and fees at the same level.
“We are happy to go zero percent. Like you said, unusual circumstances,” said Jim Rankin, president of South Dakota School of Mines and Technology [Bob Mercer, “Mandatory Tuition and Fees for On-Campus Students Won’t Go Up at S.D. Public Universities,” KELO-TV, 2020.04.01].
If the state is smart, it won’t leave the Regents hanging and expect them to respond to the coronavirus recession by cutting programs, faculty, and staff. Our universities can be hubs of economic stimulus, both short-term (keep people on staff, keep paychecks flowing in our local economies) and long-term (add teachers in high-demand programs, add new programs that help respond to immediate economic needs, make room for more students to get more skills and come out of this recession with more knowledge, skills, and earning power).
Governor Noem, here’s your Next Big Thing: use this crisis as a reason to super-invest in higher education. Bring state support of our public universities back to 50% or better so the Regents can lower students’ bills during this recession and help more students get affordable degrees and job skills.