Press "Enter" to skip to content

SoDak Vo-Tech Scholarship Plan Small Potatoes Compared to Minn., Tenn., Obama

Last updated on 2015.05.09

Governor Dennis Daugaard's new Build Dakota Scholarship for vocational-school students is a corporate welfare program whose primary aim is addressing a workforce shortage and providing select South Dakota industries with a captive labor pool. It will provide 300 scholarships over five years out of a total current vo-tech enrollment of about 6,100.

Democrats in Minnesota's Legislature are proposing free tuition for everyone who wants to attend Minnesota's two-year colleges and technical schools. That proposal mirrors the Tennessee Promise, in which Tennessee is using lottery money to cover tuition to its associate-degree programs:

It will provide students a last-dollar scholarship, meaning the scholarship will cover tuition and fees not covered by the Pell grant, the HOPE scholarship, or TSAA funds. Students may use the scholarship at any of the state’s 13 community colleges, 27 colleges of applied technology, or other eligible institution offering an associate’s degree program. While removing the financial burden is key, a critical component of Tennessee Promise is the individual guidance each participant will receive from a mentor who will assist the student as he or she navigates the college admissions process. In addition, Tennessee Promise participants must complete eight hours of community service per term enrolled, as well as maintain satisfactory academic progress (2.0 GPA) at their institution [Tennessee Promise, "About," downloaded 2015.01.09].

Instead of tying graduates to in-state employers and introducing grit in the labor market, Tennessee will ask its scholarship recipients to pay their communities back while they are in school with a simple service requirement.

President Obama likes the Tennessee Promise. He's advocating a national version of the plan, which could serve nine million Americans.

Minnesota Republicans' initial response: class warfare!

Senate Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, was similarly critical of the Democrats’ proposal for free tuition.

“At this point, we have a lot of questions,” Hann said. In particular, he said the programs lack a means-testing mechanism to ensure they are not abused by higher-income Minnesotans [Richard Lopez and J. Patrick Coolican, "Free College vs. Tax Cuts as Visions Contrast at Capitol," Minneapolis Star Tribune, 2015.01.08].

Republicans are hilarious: hand out general scholarships, and the rich are untrustworthy, abuse-minded miscreants! Hand out tax breaks, and the higher-income citizens who run businesses can be trusted to pass on great benefits to the trickled-upon masses (tax breaks are a highlight of the MN GOP plan for the state surplus).

And South Dakota Republicans bat not one eyelash at the possibility that higher-income South Dakotans might take advantage of vo-tech scholarship recipients who are required to work in South Dakota for three years by paying them lower wages than market forces would otherwise demand.


  1. Don Coyote 2015.01.09

    Sounds like Tennessee is just moving money from their 4 year Hope Scholarship fund to the new Promise program, both of which will be funded by the same lottery dollars. Former state legislator Steve Cohen, now 9th District congressman, who was the force behind the lottery and Hope Scholarships is none too happy about this move.

    Says Cohen: “...Since its creation, the HOPE Scholarship’s value has diminished as tuition has increased—and this plan will cut them even further. All future lottery revenue gains will flow to the Governor’s free-tuition, no-standards community college program, and the HOPE Scholarship will fade into irrelevance when it should be growing to match the rising costs of attending college. It is wrong to cut lottery scholarships to create a massive new government program, and it is wrong to siphon $300 million meant to strengthen HOPE Scholarships for the governor’s pet project. Doing so will sentence HOPE Scholarships to a slow and certain death."

    At least in South Dakota the tech schools scholarships have their own dedicated source of funding with the combination of state and private dollars.

  2. jerry 2015.01.09

    Republicans are cash based politicians in it only for themselves. As long as they get the goodies, all is well. When the unwashed masses get any kind of help, it is socialism and cannot be.

  3. Nick Nemec 2015.01.09

    The average 18 year old high school grad will be a 23 year old tech school grad with 3 years experience by the time he completes his service to South Dakota. Exactly what every employer of skilled labor wants. If SD employers don't pay competitive wages by the end of the 3 year period of indentureship they will loose many of those skilled employees to out of state employers willing to pay market rates. Labor is a commodity and will flow to where it is most valued. When SD employers learn this simple market based fact South Dakota's labor shortage problems will be solved.

  4. Steve Sibson 2015.01.09

    "will cover tuition and fees"

    "Tennessee will ask its scholarship recipients to pay their communities back while they are in school with a simple service requirement."

    Again, the working class has to go into debt for the cost of living while receiving off the job training, and then they are suppose to work for free in the name of community service? This is looking more and more like a communist model.

  5. qlz 2015.01.09

    "[T]he trickled upon masses.." Ha! What an apt and vivid expression.

  6. Greg 2015.01.09

    Mr. Nemec says it best, labor is a commodity and when employers figure that out, Problem Solved.

  7. Roger Elgersma 2015.01.09

    The Republicans think that if they give people a positive attitude we will all work like slaves and wish we could succeed.
    Dana Dykehouse says that they are going to advertise our votech scholarships in Minnesota so we can bring good workers to our state to grow our state. Do they not realize that anyone who grew up in a state with reasonable wages and education system would go back as soon as possible. Then we will have educated them and then lose them.
    He also thinks that the change from 50% of our college grads leaving the state to 80% staying was from giving them a positive attitude. Well when farming pays for six years in a row when it did not for twenty years, then the kids saw we can actually make a living here and so they stay. When I told city hall five years ago that Sioux Falls would grow slower since the farm prices finally came up, some did not believe it. Before the city population grew three percent per year. Now with immigrants and good farm prices we grow about half that much each year. Because the kids stay in rural areas when they can make a living there. Reality makes more difference than giving someone a positive attitude.

  8. mhs 2015.01.10

    Minnesota vo-tech schools are having a hard time maintaining enrollment. Many of the two-year associate program students take one year of class then don't return after their internship. . . because the employer where they interned hired them full-time without the second year.

    Nice problem to have.

    SD has a 1940's era vo tech program, created mostly to train farm kids who didn't want to go to SDSU. The state needs to take over the system from the local school boards that now run it and move it into the modern era.

Comments are closed.