Improving Higher Education
By: Governor Kristi Noem
May 26, 2023
South Dakota’s kids are our future. This point really hits home for those of us who are already seeing our own kids have kids of their own! And we must set our kids up with the skills and knowledge to build the best possible future for our state and nation. A big part of that puzzle is our higher education system. Unfortunately, across the nation, higher education is in a state of crisis. I have challenged our South Dakota Board of Regents to show the nation what quality higher education is supposed to look like.
We certainly have room to improve, as well. Less than half of our students are even graduating, compared to 63% nationally. And 43% of students who complete a college degree are underemployed when they graduate. Far too many students have been set up for failure – and they’ve been charged tens of thousands of dollars for their trouble.
We must do better. And South Dakota will.
I challenged our Board of Regents to take eight specific steps to set an example for the nation of what strong, conservative higher education should look like.
The Board of Regents should aim to raise graduation rates to 65% by 2028, far above the low 47% rate that we’re currently seeing. We should be outperforming the nation, not lagging behind. We’ve already taken steps to improve K-12 education for our students, with new social studies standards that teach our nation’s true and honest history. Now, we must do better for higher education, as well.
For South Dakota kids who do graduate, they should have the confidence that their degree will earn them a high-paying job in the career of their choice. I’m encouraging the Board of Regents to work with businesses on registered apprenticeship programs and offer the lowest possible credit rates. These steps will help our schools to focus more on skills that will prepare students for gainful employment. In particular, registered apprenticeships get students engaged with South Dakota businesses before they even graduate.
Our state universities should also remove all references to preferred pronouns in school materials. This practice has resulted in students being compelled and coerced to provide speech that they do not agree with. Our kids should have the ability to exercise their right to free speech. After all, South Dakota defends our constitutional freedoms more than any other state.
The Board of Regents should go further and remove any policies or procedures that prohibit students from exercising their right to free speech. Recently, Black Hills State University came under fire for one such policy that limited student speech – thankfully, the policy was removed. We must prepare our students to discuss and debate opposing ideas in a civil way.
Next, the Board of Regents should prohibit drag shows from taking place on university campuses. Gender theories can and should be debated in college classrooms, but these divisive theories shouldn’t be celebrated through public performances on taxpayer-owned property at taxpayer-funded schools.
As the cost of living continues to rise across the nation, the Board of Regents should find ways to cut costs to keep college affordable. In recent years, the Board of Regents has kept tuition low by backfilling their own budgets with taxpayer dollars. This doesn’t address rising costs. The cost of a degree should align with the value that it provides.
Civics and American history have been all but dismissed in higher education, and the result is abject indifference and lack of competency in our youth. The Board of Regents should require a course in American government and a course in American history as part of the general education graduation requirements.
Finally, the Board of Regents should help tackle the threat posed by communist China. They should immediately review all funding sources of university centers and all donations to ensure there is no money coming into our educational system from China.
As Governor, my duty is to protect the people of South Dakota, ensure that their tax burden remains low, and spend those taxpayer dollars wisely. Together, we can and must set an example to the nation of what strong, conversative higher education can look like. I look forward to continuing to work on this incredibly important goal.