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Task force seeking ways to reduce university spending convenes Thursday in Spearfish
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Task force seeking ways to reduce university spending convenes Thursday in Spearfish

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The O’Harra Administration Building on the South Dakota Mines campus in Rapid City.

A task force formed after the 2020 legislative session to study the operations of public universities in South Dakota will have its third meeting at Black Hills State University on Thursday. The goal is to find areas to consolidate or eliminate to save money and lower tuition for students.

The public is invited to attend either remotely or in person, beginning at 8 a.m. in the lower level of the BHSU Student Union in Spearfish.

The Senate Bill 55 Task Force was formed to study the operations and functions of the state’s six public institutions of higher education governed by the South Dakota Board of Regents. The task force must report its final recommendations to the legislature and Gov. Kristi Noem no later than Nov. 15. 

The original SB 55, introduced during the 2020 legislative session by Sen. Ryan Maher, R-Isabel, was intended to plan shared administration between South Dakota Mines in Rapid City and BHSU in Spearfish. It was amended to expand the scope to all universities governed by the Board of Regents, then again to further broaden the study to the operations and functions of all universities.

Thursday’s meeting will be the task force’s third, but the three subcommittees, Academic Programs, Administration, and Infrastructure/Ancillary, have also met independently, according to a press release from the Board of Regents. Thursday afternoon, the subcommittees will report their progress.

“Each subcommittee has an important assignment, leading us to final recommendations that will be shared with lawmakers and the governor,” Brian Maher, the regents’ executive director and CEO, said in a press release. “We are looking at administrative efficiencies, duplication of program offerings, and activities outside the universities’ core missions of teaching, learning and research.”

The task force’s findings must include the following as laid out in SB 55:

  • The possible combining of administration at all levels of operation within an institution;
  • The possible combining of operations and functions across multiple institutions;
  • The possible combining of the administration of programs across multiple institutions;
  • A review of the duplication of program offerings;
  • A review of the academic majors with low enrollments and low numbers of graduates;
  • A review of functions outside the core missions of teaching, learning and research;
  • A review of the operations and functions provided as an efficiency through the central office of the Board of Regents;
  • A review of the viability of the university centers;
  • Any other possible cost-effective measures the task force determines are worthy of examination.

The task force comprises 20 people, including university presidents, state legislators on the Joint Appropriations Committee, CEOS of regional companies, Board of Regents members and BOR support staff.

Thursday’s agenda begins at 8 a.m. and concludes around 3:30 p.m. Members of the public will be able to watch the presentations via Zoom and are also invited to attend in person. The subcommittee meetings will not be streamed.

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