PIERRE | The governing board of South Dakota's university system wants to see more young state residents earn college degrees.
According to a study, less than 40 percent of residents 25 and up hold at least a two-year degree of some sort — trailing neighbors Minnesota, North Dakota and Nebraska — and state officials hope to raise that level significantly.
The state Board of Regents, whose nine members govern South Dakota’s six public universities and three university centers, will question campus presidents next week about the regents’ goal to increase college degrees by 2025 among South Dakota citizens aged 25 to 34.
The discussion Tuesday in Brookings focuses on the target of 65 percent for the age bracket. The regents set the goal during their retreat last August.
A Georgetown University Public Policy Institute report was the basis. David Palmer, the regents’ system director of institutional research, brought the report to South Dakota’s attention in 2015.
The Georgetown report showed South Dakota had a 38 percent attainment rate — that is, holding at least a two-year associate degree — for adults age 25 and older, based on U.S. Census Bureau data for 2013.
The 2015 analysis from the regents’ central office made an important point.
“Because this goal would span all postsecondary communities — technical institutes as well as public, private, and tribal colleges and universities — it would create an opportunity for a collaborative dialog among all educational institutions and statewide stakeholders,” the analysis said.
Among states in the region, South Dakota’s 38 percent at the time trailed Minnesota (44.2 percent), North Dakota (40.9) and Nebraska (39.2). South Dakota ranked above Iowa (37.5 percent), Montana (37.4) and Wyoming (37.3).
The current rate for South Dakota in the age bracket isn’t clear. It wasn’t mentioned in the executive proclamation signed Dec. 2, 2016, by Gov. Dennis Daugaard adopting the 65 percent goal for South Dakota.
The regents list 20 indicators for measuring student recruitment and success. Their central office staff in Pierre prepared 16 questions for the regents to ask the state university presidents Tuesday.
Those indicators and questions went to the regents this week as part of the meeting packet.
Indicator 1 is undergraduate degrees awarded. That page notes:
“And as indicated in other recent analyses, system enrollment has continued to face considerable downward pressure. Although undergraduate enrollment has increased by 16.6 percent since Fall 2005, the rate of growth has slowed dramatically. In fact, undergraduate enrollment actually fell by 4.3 percent from Fall 2010 to Fall 2015 when high school students are excluded," the report said.
“If this trend continues, undergraduate awards may begin to fall unless advances are made with respect to graduation rates.”
Indicator 17 is the regional rank for undergraduate student tuition and fees. That page notes:
“Data indicate that, under this performance measure, South Dakota universities have become less affordable over the last decade in comparison with regional peers.
“While South Dakota once ranked near the middle of eight Midwestern states with respect to undergraduate costs, it since has moved decidedly toward the high end of the cost distribution. By 2016, only one neighboring state (Minnesota) charged more to resident undergraduates.”
Indicator 18 is state government’s share of support for student tuition and fees. That has been below 50 percent since fiscal 2009. The narrative notes:
“After reaching an all-time low of 38 percent in (fiscal year) 2012, several years of renewed investment by the state have led to a slow return of the state’s share toward the targeted 50 percent mark.”
The regents in October 2014 adopted a long list of goals they wanted to reach in 2020. Those goals included growth in undergraduate degrees and graduate degrees.
The public universities reported they awarded about 4,800 undergraduate degrees and approximately 1,550 graduate degrees in fiscal 2014.
Their 2020 goals at that time were 7,450 degrees overall with 5,630 undergraduate degrees and 1,820 graduate degrees.
The regents website reports the most recent levels as roughly 4,650 undergraduate degrees. That is a 150-degree decline since 2014.
The website also reports about 1,700 graduate degrees, a 150-degree increase since 2014.