South Dakota Republicans brag about their budget-balancing prowess. They don't like being reminded that they are balancing the budget by shifting burdens onto private citizens.
Consider higher education. South Dakota is part of a national trend in which states are reducing their proportional and real-dollar support for universities, leaving students to foot the bill through higher tuition. In South Dakota, that means that while the Governor can brag about meeting his statutory obligation to balance the state budget, college graduates are carrying more student loan debt. South Dakota has the second-highest percentage of students graduating in debt.
My friend Dr. Nesiba says that's a problem for anyone interested in upward mobility:
Economics Professor Reynold Nesiba says while public higher education is more affordable in South Dakota; wages are still low, making it difficult for families to afford it.
"Something has to happen. Either schools are going to have to figure out how to provide more aid, or the federal government has to provide more aid; or we're going to see a smaller proportion of our populations take advantage of higher education," Nesiba said [Angela Kennecke, "SD Second Highest Percentage Of Grads With Student Loan Debt," KELOLand.com, 2014.11.14].
Dr. Nesiba recommends more debt forgiveness and/or more state support for higher ed. The Opportunity Scholarship might be one place to start: Kennecke reports that the Regents would like to boost that merit-based scholarship from $5,000 to $7,000, which would cost the state $1.6 million a year. Heck, recoup the money the EB-5 scammers pilfered from the state, and we could pay for that measly increase for 80 years. Heck, fees from just one EB-5 project would cover eight years of such scholarship support.
Or we could just get back to taking higher education seriously. Maybe the start should spend less money on trickle-down handouts to corporations and more on trickle-up seed money invested in our universities. Make college affordable for everyone, and we can produce a lot more graduates who can add a lot more value to our economy, not just with their Regentally fostered knowledge, skills, and critical thinking, but with all their immediate spending power that they can pour into cars and houses instead of student loan debt.