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Education Dept. Releases More Details on “Build Dakota” Vo-Tech Scholarship

Last updated on 2015.01.08

My eager readers have numerous questions about the new Build Dakota Scholarship, the $50-million joint venture between the state and usury-baron-cum-philanthropist T. Denny Sanford to offer 300 full-ride scholarships to get vo-tech students to stay and work in South Dakota. Who's eligible? For how much? In which job fields? And can the state hammer out the details in time for high school seniors to apply this spring?

The state is trying to answer those questions. The South Dakota Department of Education sent me the following FAQ sheet yesterday afternoon:

    A new scholarship program created through a $50 million dollar investment funded by a $25 million donation from T. Denny Sanford and a $25 million contribution from the South Dakota Future Fund.
    The scholarship administration board will determine the eligible technical institute programs each year. For the 2015-16, information will be released with the scholarship application in February 2015.
    The scholarships will support tuition, fees, books and other required program expenses in the eligible, South Dakota technical institute programs.
    The scholarship covers tuition, fees and other required program expenses for Build Dakota scholars. For the 2014-15 school year, full-time students make the following investments for a technical institute education:

    • AAS Programs: Full program expenses range from approximately $16,000 to $19,750 (median $17,875) over the 2-year program. Included in the estimated expenses are tuition and fees, technology, tools and books required to complete the program.
    • Diploma Programs: Full program expenses range from approximately $9,000 to $12,000 (median $10,500) for the 1-year program.
    Yes, they can. Both South Dakota students and out-of-state students are eligible for the scholarships.
    The Build Dakota Scholarship program will begin with newly enrolled students in Fall 2015.
    The state’s investment in Build Dakota comes from the Future Fund. Following the recession of the early 1980s, the Future Fund was developed by Governor Mickelson to invest in South Dakota’s workforce and build its economy. The Future Fund supports the workforce development and technical assistance programs which help train employees, retrain employees during layoffs and support business recruitment, economic development initiatives, and research and entrepreneurial activities.
    The Critical Needs Workforce Scholarship will be phased out as funds are allocated to the Build Dakota scholarship program [South Dakota Department of Education, FAQ sheet, e-mailed to Madville Times, 2014.12.18].

Item 4 confounds my calculations on the scholarship/purchasing-power payoffs. I based my calculations on the high end of a KELO report pegging vo-tech costs at $12K to $15K. DOE is saying the Build Dakota Scholarships could pay $9K to $12K for one-year programs and $16K to nearly $20K for two-year programs. Plus, a friend in government suggests revising my calculations to regional price parity data, which this friend contends are more accurate than my long-preferred C2ER cost-of-living data. Looks like a weekend of more spreadsheets....

Item 2 says the details on eligible programs will be hammered out by February, when the state will release the scholarship application form. Item 8 may provide a clue as to which job fields Build Dakota will target. The current Critical Needs Workforce Scholarship puts a measly $500K toward vo-tech scholarships of up to $5K. Build Dakota will replace that program with scholarships worth, in the case of two-year programs, up to four times that amount. The Critical Needs Workforce Scholarship currently targets these degrees and job fields:

• Energy Operations – AAS
• Energy Technology – AAS
• Precision Machining – AAS
• Precision Machining eDegree – AAS
• Robotics eDegree – AAS
• Architectural Design & Building Construction – AAS
• Automation Controls/SCADA – AAS
• Electrical Utilities and Substation Technology – AAS
• Electrical Construction & Maintenance – AAS/Diploma
• Farm Power Technology – AAS
• Heating & Cooling Technology – AAS/Diploma
• Industrial Controls – Certificate
• Industrial Maintenance Technology – Diploma
• Information Systems Technology – AAS/Diploma
• Precision Technology Specialist – AAS/Diploma
• Telecommunications – AAS
• Welding & Manufacturing Technology – AAS/Diploma
• Automotive Technician – AAS/Diploma
• CIS/Systems Administration – AAS
• Civil Engineering Technology – AAS
• Computer Network Security – AAS
• Computer Programming – AAS
• Computer Science – AAS/Diploma
• Diesel Technology – AAS/Diploma
• Electronics Technology – AAS/Diploma
• Land Surveying Science Technology – AAS
• Mechanical Engineering Technology – AAS
• Mechatronics – AAS
• Plumbing – Diploma
• Welding – Diploma
• Computer Aided Drafting – AAS/Diploma
• Computer Science – AAS/Diploma
• Electrical Trades – AAS
• HVAC Technology – Diploma
• HVAC/R Technology – AAS
• Network Administration & Security – AAS/Diploma
• Precision Machining – AAS/Diploma
• Transportation Technology – AAS
• Welding – AAS/Diploma

Expect Build Dakota to target a very similar list of degrees and jobs.

DOE's original Build Dakota info sheet offers eligibility criteria, and financial need is included:

  • Interest in the high-need workforce areas
  • U.S. citizen or U.S. national
  • Applicants need not be South Dakota residents
  • Financial need
  • Demonstrated aptitude through one or more of the following:
    • The National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC) or other industry-recognized certifications in the career area
    • Technical, dual or concurrent credit courses taken in the career interest area
    • Career & Technical Education coursework completed in the career interest area
    • Work-based learning experiences, internships or work experience in the career interest area [Department of Education, Build Dakota Scholarship information sheet, downloaded 2014.12.18]

Low-income students may get some preference, but I wonder how high we will or should prioritize financial need? If this is a workforce-building plan, should we choose recipients based on talent first, then break ties on financial need? Or is this an opportunity to build skills among low-income students who may not otherwise have the chance to get a good technical education?

Again, this is all a work in progress. The Legislature will likely want to get its hand on the tiller, too... although with the money all coming from Sanford's private fortune and the Governor's own Future Fund, is any Legislative action needed? Whoever gets involved, watch for the final details by February.


  1. JeniW 2014.12.19

    So, those who are already receiving training (or has received training,) at any of the schools in designated programs will not be eligible?

    Will former prison inmates be eligible?

    What happens when an individual starts in one field/program area comes to the conclusion that s/he does not like it, or does not have the needed talents, can s/he switch to a different program without being penalized?

    Individual enrolls in a program, but fails to succeed in passing a course, will the individual need to reimburse the scholarship provided?

  2. Nick Nemec 2014.12.19

    Good questions JeniW. I'd like to add how are the targeted programs identified?

  3. Steve Sibson 2014.12.19

    It is great entertainment value to watch the SDGOP Establishment play you Democrats as fools. Don't feel bad though, I was one of their fools ten years ago. Thankfully the truth set me free of their BS.

  4. Nick Nemec 2014.12.19

    I just want answers to questions Steve. Specialized job training, which this is, should be the responsibility of businesses and not state government. I don't deny the scholarships aren't a good deal for the people who win them but let business fund it 100%. If businesses are having a hard time finding employees for certain positions they should step up to recruit and train or pay to train qualified individuals.

    I'll repeat my question "how are the targeted programs identified?" Who will have input into that decision? Will special consideration be given to campaign contributors? Quid pro quo?

  5. Steve Sibson 2014.12.19

    Nick, I agree that this is 100% the responsibility of business and not government. Each business should answer your questions individually and then implement their plan. Unfortunately, the central planners are using government to control the economic environment, so now your questions are answered by small groups of people via public/private partnerships. There is no way these small groups can consider all the wants and needs of all individuals that are in the market place. So that is why our current economic system is not efficient and requires huge amounts of debt to finance the malinvestments. It also sets up the system of legal corruption. The winners are people like Denny Sanford. The losers will be those who will be around when the debt causes the economic collapse. And those most likely will be the kids that these so-called education programs claim to be benefiting. Denny Sanford's money is fool's gold.

  6. tara volesky 2014.12.19

    Sibson is right. The Democrats play into the crony capitalism to much. Don't let the Republican party con you. I hope not one Democrat voted for the $5 million dollar Manpower fiasco.
    Nick, these guys are going to do what ever they want, because they can. It's a one-party plutocracy.

  7. JeniW 2014.12.19

    So who of those who object to this program going to try to do to change it, or stop it from happening?

  8. Steve Sibson 2014.12.19

    JeniW, we cannot stop them. They have too much power. All we can do is understand what is going on and try to warn our kids as we advise them to stay below the radar.

  9. JeniW 2014.12.19

    Steve S., then that is what needs to be done.

    Who will meet with the potential students to tell them that participating in the program will do them more harm than good?

    There will probably be individuals who will want to enroll in the Mitchell Tech program using the available scholarship. What you, Tara, and others be doing to forewarn those individuals?

    What alternatives are available that do not have strings attached? If students take out a loan, the string attached will be the interest rates and fees?

    It would be great if education for any occupation did not cost a heap of money, but that is not the reality at this time.

  10. Steve Sibson 2014.12.19

    "Who will meet with the potential students to tell them that participating in the program will do them more harm than good?"

    JeniW, I not sure I agree with you point entirely. The kids need to play the game, but they need to be prepared when the gravy train is over. They probably can't avoid all debt, but they should stay away from consumer debt.

  11. mike from iowa 2014.12.19

    Sibby-you wouldn't recognize truth if it bit you on the ass.

  12. tara volesky 2014.12.19

    There needs to be something in writing that there are no strings attached. Students will be hit with loans, because aren't these scholarships for tuition only. Well figure another 8 thousand dollars for room/board, books and fees. Now watch for increases in the price of education. Be careful what kind of student loan you take out. The $250,000 they are going to use for advertising is unnecessary, because the colleges already are equipped with all the advertising they need. Do the media ever ask any questions, or are they just in awe?

  13. JeniW 2014.12.19

    Steve S, I suspect that those who will be participating in the program will have some understanding of financial realities because they still have to pay for their shelter, utilities, supplies, computer, food, clothing, transportation, and medical needs. They will either have to be employed, take out a loan, or hope for financial support from somewhere to support them.

    Consumer debt is a reality for many, because most of us have to pay for utilities, food and etc.

    Trying to avoid going into major consumer debt is a good thing, and that is why financial counseling/education is needed from elementary school onward.

    But this has nothing to do with your blaming Democrats, and calling them "fools" for Gov. Daugaard's and Denny's getting this thing rolling. It is not a new concept that has not been used in other places and other fields.

    If you think that the various businesses should be providing training, such as nursing homes providing the training for RNs, CNAs, then you need to help make that happen. What will you do to convince the Mitchell School District that they need to provide the training for teachers? Will you be able to convince Cabela's that they should train people to be accountants/bookkeeping?

  14. JeniW 2014.12.19

    Tara, we all know that there is absolutely nothing, except the air that we breathe, that is truly for free. Everything "free" has strings attached.

    In this case the individuals who participate in the program have to work for at least three years in South Dakota.

    Even on Face Book if anyone wants something that is "free," they have to "Like" it. the string attached is getting an endless supply of advertisements.

  15. Steve Sibson 2014.12.19

    "But this has nothing to do with your blaming Democrats, and calling them "fools" for Gov. Daugaard's and Denny's getting this thing rolling."

    JeniW, I admitted that I was a fool too. We are all going down the wrong path based on the establishments of both parties saying it is all good. If all I cared about was me and my political career, I would not be admitting these things. Once I understood that I can't fix the problems politically, having a successful political career didn't seem all that important anymore. My only hope is that I get people to stop and think a little more about these issues. Thanks for doing so. Pay it forward to those who are younger.

  16. Troy 2014.12.19

    If Vocational Education is 100% the responsibility of business, why isn't college? Why isn't high school? Why isn't grade school?

    Frankly, as a taxpayer, my motive to train welders isn't so businesses can be more successful but so that those who aspire and have the aptitude to be welders can be welders. It also undergirds my support for taxpayer support for those who aspire to be lawyers, teachers, doctors, businesspeople, and social workers.

    A couple of things that strike me by this discussion:

    1) People who think we should have more money in education are criticizing more money for education.

    2) People who think the rich should pay a greater share of government are criticizing a rich person who is voluntarily doing so.

    3) People who assert their views are the defense of the poor, less skilled, etc. are somehow thinking that vocational education is a lower form of education which implies that welding is a lower form of work than being a teacher, nurse, doctor etc.

    Frankly, I would think this would be something that is unifying regardless of ideology. But, maybe the decision has been made for us to be divided on all things.

  17. tara volesky 2014.12.19

    That is true JeniW. They just need to read the fine print before signing up. Another question that needs to be asked is what is the starting salary in SD after graduation? Do I want to stay in SD and weld for $12-$14 dollars an hour or join up with a union across the boarder and make $25-$30 dollars an hour.

  18. tara volesky 2014.12.19

    Pay them, and they will come.

  19. larry kurtz 2014.12.19

    So, it's good for taxpayers to force women to wait three days before exercising their right to a D & C because religion.

  20. larry kurtz 2014.12.19

    Why anyone lives in southern Dakota remains a mystery.

  21. Bill Fleming 2014.12.19

    Larry, name one thing that isn't a mystery. Any 5 year old can destroy any level of intellect with about 3 or 4 rounds of "why?" Q & As. ;-)

  22. jerry 2014.12.19

    I agree, pay them and they will come. Nothing is being said about the crappy wages that these companies will continue to pay. If they have the work and the demand, then they should pay their employees decent wages with benefits. Problem solved with some on the job training and its off to see the wizard. I am missing how companies in South Dakota would increase the pay schedule to hire these new professionals. Good that we have a billionaire putting up cash and good to have the donators to Daugaard's coffers ponying up some loot, but in the end, it will come back to us to make more contributions to the slave labor South Dakota business expects to pay for the newest additions to the work force. This locks them in to a system that reeks of possible abuse as this is not a free deal for the students, they will have to pay it back in kind or be penalized I guess. That could present a big problem for potential students.

  23. Steve Sibson 2014.12.19

    "If Vocational Education is 100% the responsibility of business, why isn't college? Why isn't high school? Why isn't grade school?"

    Troy, it all has become "skills for the global economy" and NOT education. If you have not noticed, I also have a problem with Common Core.

  24. Steve Sibson 2014.12.19

    "Frankly, I would think this would be something that is unifying regardless of ideology."

    The liberal Democrats and the liberal Republicans love this crap.

Comments are closed.