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South Dakota Shifts Cost of Higher Education to Students in Debt

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,", 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.


  1. Tim 2014.11.20

    If Republicans get their way and continue to cut and whack at the federal budget so they can give more tax cuts to the rich, states like SD will continue to be worse off. I find it interesting that our Republican Congressional Delegation either are not interested or to stupid to see what they are doing. Higher wages would be a great way to start turning things around here, but what will that do to that business friendly environment Daugaard is so freaking proud of.

  2. mike from iowa 2014.11.20

    What about the debt incurred by all the dropouts who can't finish their education for whatever reason? Any idea how bad that is?

  3. David Newquist 2014.11.20

    Over the years, the economics of higher education has changed drastically. In my generation, it was possible to work your way through college. The costs were not proportionally so high and there jobs available that paid incomes. In my case, I lived in a factory town and over the summers or a semester devoted to work could produce enough income so one could save up for tuition and books. Also, part time jobs paid well enough to cover living expenses. State colleges were subsidized to keep costs at an affordable level and private denominational colleges often gave tuition discounts to church members. It was possible to cover the costs of education and not end up with a crushing debt load.

    This week I saw a news show in which a professor cited a study of the high cost of higher education. He made the point that the high costs of running colleges was not in providing instruction, but administrative costs. As a student and young professor, presidents and deans served totally different roles. Presidents held their positions because of their teaching experience and their active scholarship. Currently, they hold their positions because of fund-raising potential. When I first taught, the college president and the deans all had substantial teaching loads. Their relationship to the younger faculty was as mentors and colleagues, not bosses. When decisions about promotion and tenure were made, they were based upon a knowledge from daily contact about a candidate’s teaching and scholarship. As the administration of colleges took on the aspects of being run like businesses, the “executive costs” burgeoned and collegial relationships ended. Now when administrations talk about collegiality, they mean a submissive deference on the part of the faculty. In times past, presidents and deans considered their jobs to support faculty work, not merely supervise it.

    The general attitude about higher education has changed from how to make it accessible and inclusive to how to make it fit corporate management practices. The political climate of the nation and the state has little tolerance for the knowledge and inquiry that comprises actual education. Some denominations and cultural organizations are beginning to consider the need to create educational opportunities based upon the actual meaning of collegial. That includes using the social media in ways that surmount ignorance and uninformed, uncritical intelligence.

  4. Many Many 2014.11.20

    $236, 578 BHSU president salary
    $354, 567 SDSU president salary (he also serves on Monsanto board of directors)
    $354, 567 USD president salary
    $236, 578 NSU president salary
    $331,000 SDSMT president salary
    $236, 578 DSU president salary
    60 % of South Dakota faculty are adjunct, only 40% of the faculty in this state are professors, the rest are part time employees who teach up to 5 classes a semester. When the flu shot comes to campus- these adjuncts are denied access to the free flu shot offered to only the full-time faculty, along with denial of all benefits. There are now seas of cubicles on campuses dedicated entirely to "student retention" called "Student Support Services" in which a large pool of full-time staff are contacts and mediators between students and faculty to help students stay in school, get faculty to relax their expectations- Hey -they are autistic! Hey -this is a student athlete! Not to mention the heavy administration, assistant to the assistant of the Provost- or even the $100,000 budget needed for each school to plant and maintain the pretty flowers that bloom the 3 months no one is on campus besides the administration.
    A college course now costs students $980. one class. they need 120 credits to graduate- 40 classes to graduate- plus room and board- a 4 year college degree in this state will cost you around $60k.

  5. leslie 2014.11.20

    thanks Mr. Newquist.

    i pledge allegiance to to the flag (1923)...and the CORPORATIONS (2011 Mitt: corporations are people too!:) to which it stands...under God (Ike's 1954 cold war)....

    the right arm/palm up salute was too much like the Nazi/skin head "stiff arm" in WWII so the hand was placed over the American heart. sob.

  6. Owen 2014.11.20

    The Governor isn't going to help college students. He wants ready made workers so they can fill the labor needs of his business buddies. Like welders and so on....

  7. Steve Sibson 2014.11.21

    "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."

    So what is the difference between higher tuition and higher taxes? Perhaps Cory is becoming a conservative, but has not realized it yet.

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