College out of reach? Rein in the 4th branch of government.

From the Argus Leader, the Board of Regents is telling the legislative planning commission that College is becoming out of reach because of it’s expense:

While the Board has worked to make college more affordable and more accessible for lower income students, there is still work to be done, Michael Rush, executive director of the South Dakota Board of Regents said.

Rush said there is a perception among South Dakota students that college carries too high a price tag. He said though the number of students enrolling in post-secondary institutions has increased over several years, the numbers aren’t as high as he’d like.


Partly to blame for that shying away from postsecondary education is the price tag. South Dakota public colleges have the second highest tuition rates in the region for residents. Of South Dakota’s neighboring states, the only state with a higher tuition price tag is Minnesota.

Read that her.

College is getting expensive? Well, it’s not cheap to build a fiefdom. Maybe it’s just me, but personally, I’m of the opinion that the BOR has done much of this to themselves.

I recall several years ago, instead of having everything processed in Pierre like the rest of state government, they formed their own accounting & payment system to the tune of several million dollars. We have how many universities in how many locations at this point?

The Board of Regents has long been considered the 4th Branch of government, and has managed to get by with little oversight in comparison to the rest of state government. If their mission is to provide a college education to those who qualify academically, coming back and saying they need more money for scholarships so people can afford it is putting the cart before the horse.

Before they come to the taxpayer’s well, what they need to do is to look how they can internally cut costs, and make decisions as to what are needs and what are wants.

I hold out the example in looking at colleges over the past few years with my kids. SDSU built a rock wall for student use. Next thing you know, USD built one, and boasted how theirs was a foot higher than SDSU’s. Yes, really.

Yes, I’m sure much of that is paid by student fees, as coming from my kids and my wife as she finishes up her doctorate. But, that example is a general pervasive attitude. There is no thought on “how can we college more affordable by reducing expenses?” It’s a question of “how much can we get away with raising student fees?”

Why is it inconceivable to go to a single university system? Or perhaps a study on how can we can consolidate some of the smaller ones into the larger ones? Or perhaps shift the accounting system back under State Government.

If they want to make college more affordable, that’s where the Board of Regents needs to start. Long before they work on ways where they can continue to charge students more.

27 thoughts on “College out of reach? Rein in the 4th branch of government.”

  1. And now we want to do the same with forming another branch of government for community and tech ed through the 2016 ballot initiative. This should certainly raise concerns about expanding state government once again.

    1. The ballot issue has nothing to do with that. It simply recognizes the Techs as their own entity, rather than one that could be governed by the Board of Regents.

  2. College isn’t out of reach, the college lifestyle is out of reach. I’ve spoken with school officials, they highlight the competitive market for students and their need for things like rock walls, but there needs to be a breaking point. The extravagance prevalent in our system should not be the responsibility of every student, parent and taxpayer. Students should have the option of selecting a “classes only” rate. For the student that wants to attend classes and get a degree without access to a rock wall or a dorm room with a Jacuzzi, let them.

  3. I was amazed at the high costs of “fees” when my kids went to SDSU and USD. All either of them wanted was a degree in their field. SDSU was only two years before he was accepted into grad school, so don’t remember that as much. But seven years of USD racked up a lot of “donations” from us for my kid’s education thru grad school. Even if she had wanted to use the pool, for instance, it was never available as it was tied up for the athletes use. I would love to see a “classes only” type of college system. And do some college dorms have Jacuzzi’s in the room???? If so, that is completely wrong. I thought they were all supposed to use the bath down the hall. Don’t cry to me about needing to raise tuition when you have money to spend on new buildings, Jacuzzi’s, rock walls, etc. If a student wants to climb a rock wall, there are plenty of natural ones in SD!

    1. I can’t recall all the amenities, but Coyote Village went up either when I was a student at USD or shortly thereafter (I lived off campus). I recall my reaction to the description of the rooms as that of amazement/bewilderment. Thought some of the rooms came with jacuzzis.

  4. PP do you have a copy of the Frank Gibbs report that laid the blue print for consolidation in South Dakota higher education..? I used to be able to find it using the google machine, but I get nothing today. It would be fun to share with the group for discussion.

    Fees are BS, there should be a process for opting out after a year or two. Tuition should go towards learning and facilities related to that. Fees should go towards all the other stuff and should be optional. I had to show my Student ID to enter the Dome, how hard would it be to have that ID reflect the fact that I also paid the fees that allowed me to use the Dome.

    The true competitive advantage in recruiting students would have to be cost and quality of education would it not..? Lets focus on that instead of climbing walls and stadiums.

  5. Not entirely sure it’s all on the BoR. According to Bob Mercer:

    “Currently, students at South Dakota’s state universities pay 58 percent of their education expense, while state government covers 42 percent. The ratio had been the opposite — approximately 52 percent state and 48 percent student — until about 2008, when it flipped to 51 percent student and 49 percent state. Since then, the gap broadened, with more and more shifted onto the student; the widest point came in 2012 when the student was responsible for 62 percent and the state 38 percent. The ratio was 58 percent student and 42 percent state in fiscal 2014, which covered the 2013-2014 academic year, and the freeze followed. The goal the regents hope to reach is 50-50. According to a briefing sheet prepared by regents’ central staff, the average net tuition for state-university students in South Dakota is $8,221 while the national average is $6,267. South Dakota’s state-supported tuition is higher for students than all of the neighboring states.”

    The governor and legislature need to step up to the plate. The rest of you need to quit chasing red herring in the hot tub.

    1. The answer is not to simply pony up more dollars from the state. That seems to be the answer from anyone who thinks that state/federal money simply grows on trees (remember Obama’s stash remark which too many people believe?). The answer is to put a ceiling on extravagant, unnecessary spending. Spend on academics, the main reason that people want to get a higher education. If a person isn’t there for academics to get a good job, then maybe that student shouldn’t be in college anyway.

      1. And how does reducing expenditures re-balance the scales between student and state proportions? Of course money doesn’t grow on trees, but why not have the job creators shoulder more of the burden for building their human capital? If T. Denny wants the next generation of workerbots to pad his billions, why not give more of his money to the state to reduce tuition costs rather than throwing it away on naming rights for climbing walls?

        1. It is immoral to expect hard working taxpayers to heavily subsidize the higher educations of those who will use those subsidized degrees to make more money than the hard working taxpayer.

    2. You post fails to address the problem: WHY are students and the state spending more?

      It’s been shown that the growth of administrators within SD BOR have far outpaced enrollment, with diversity coordinators and associate diversity coordinators and directors of student programming and layer upon layer of sexual harassment investigators and directors & trainers , et al.

  6. Best story as to why we don’t have a single system I heard from Ted Muenster, teaching along with Doc Farber during Doc’s last year teaching at USD. Ted recalled in the the second year Gov. Kneip pushed the bill, Ted had just finished up the committee testimony. Every legislator had by then heard the pitch at least a half-dozen times. First question he gets: (he refused to say which legislator asked it) “Mr Muenster, you say we already have too many universities, why do you want to start one more?”

    Ted said he knew the bill was dead that instant.

  7. The Regents only need to look at themselves in order to cut costs. Look at the salary of their Exec Director, it is obscene. Look at the salary of professors, compare them to k-12 teachers, see how they get paid way more and work less and spend far less time in the classroom than a k-12 teacher. I graduated from SDSU in the early 80’s. Some of my “teachers” there were arrogant jerks who shouldn’t have been working with young people. Then look at the facilities: back then all the buildings were functional and usable and practical. Now look at the place, you hardly recognize it , the sky’s the limit on spending, everything looks like “keeping up with the Jones’ “. Every year they come to the legislature with another request for several million, and it gets passed since there are “no state funds” being used, only student fees and donations. Look at the massive new practice facility, and now the huge football stadium with little regard to the seating of students. Why are student fees so high ??? Have we reached a $ billion yet in what we have spent on waste, glitter, and shrines since I left ? I will never again donate one dime to my alma mater. ( and don’t get me started on all the politically correct and pro-homosexual crap that goes on there ).

    1. Former Exec. Dir. Jack Warner came from SC (I think) making $350,00 in SD; 2.5 times his SC salary in a SD system with half the students.

  8. 1. The University Center = biggest waste of tax payer dollars,ever on higher ed. USD students in some master programs are required to take classes at the University Center even though they live in Vermillion and the rest of the program/classes are on campus at USD.The BOR needs to admit they were wrong about the center.
    2. Consolidate higher education? Those be blasphemous words…how about we consolidate K-12 schools and stop incentivising the smaller schools to stay open when its not economical to do so in many situations.

    1. How about we not consolidate anything ? There have been approx. 40 SD high schools closed in the last 25 years. Isn’t that enough already! When will it be enough for the urban arm-chair quarterbacks? We’ve also closed Yankton College, Huron College, and USD Springfield. Saving money by consolidating is greatly exaggerated. Do we really want school age kids having to get up at 5:30 am and ride two hours on a bus ? You try it !

      1. Weren’t Huron and Yankton Colleges private institutions? We didn’t close them. The Market closed them. And no, we have not consolidated enough schools. We have too many small school systems that are just a few miles from each other. See Marion & Parker or Woonsocket and Sanborn Central.

        1. Marion and Parker are both big enough to be on their own if they wish to be. Sanborn Central is already the consolidation of Artesian/Letcher/Forestburg. Alpena has already closed with most going to Woonsocket. Do you live in a small town? Do you wish it were smaller?

      2. Schools closed does not equal consolidation. Just because 40 schools were closed doesn’t mean it was because of consolidation. School districts need to be consolidated. Explain why there needs to be 1 superintendent, 2+ principals per really small district? Why can’t 1 superintendent cover 2+ districts?

        1. Look at reality Republican Einstein. Name just one school that closed that didn’t consolidate.(what else did they do, evaporate into thin air?) Many small districts have only 1 or 2 principals already, and there are supers covering 2 districts. There are incentives in state law for doing such cooperation, they are doing it and it is working. If and when a district needs to close, the citizens will realize it on their own and they will do it. You can’t force it.

  9. Anonymous 9:26 p.m. & Duggersd,

    I think you are both right.

    1) Too many people in large towns think county and rural consolidation will save a lot of money. The savings are over-stated and in many cases transfer the “savings” to parents who have increased transport costs and kids who have greater travel time.

    2) Too many people in rural towns are too slow to recognize the financial and non-financial benefits that can come from limited consolidation.

    One of the things the State can do is provide resources for comprehensive analysis of potential consolidations of local governments or schools and provide the information to the affected parties and let them deal with objective information. This information will be such that perceptions of both those in large towns and rural areas can be dealt with rationally and with good information.

    1. Why isn’t the blue ribbon task force studying school consolidation? Better yet why hasn’t the “small school factor” been studied more to determine its fairness, feasibility and practicality?

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