SD officials looking at creating ‘needs based scholarship program’

South Dakota News

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – Going to college after high school is a popular route for many students. However, some of those students are unable to attend or stay in college due to it being too expensive. That’s why some education officials in South Dakota would like to see something done when it comes to a ‘needs based scholarship program.’

After high school graduation, many students take the next step and head to college. But for some, that dream is unattainable because of the cost. In many cases, a needs based scholarship program could help.

“South Dakota, compared to any state in our area, it’s virtually non-existent,” president of the South Dakota Board of Regents, Kevin Schieffer said.

South Dakota Board of Regents President, Kevin Schieffer says a couple of programs are available, but they don’t add up to much.

For instance, in South Dakota, for every Pell Grant recipient, there’s only about $17 in need-based funding from the state. That’s compared to more than $2,000 for students in Minnesota and Wyoming… and more than a $1,000 for low income students in other neighboring states.

But what exactly does ‘needs based’ mean?

“Needs based is actually a financial need, so a family that makes a smaller dollar amount of money per year might have a greater financial need for attending college than compared to a family above a certain poverty level,” USD president, Sheila Gestring said.

Recently, the 2019 fall enrollment numbers for the six public universities were released. The numbers were slightly down. Schieffer says some of that may be due to the virtually nonexistent needs based scholarship program in South Dakota.

“We have very good data coming out of our high schools, so we know who’s going where, there is a group of students that have very good scores, but they’re not going to college because they can’t afford it, there’s another group of students we are losing who have very good scores, but they are going to college in neighboring states that offer needs based scholarships, Schieffer said.

“We still lose a lot of students from South Dakota to those states because those states offer more needs based aid,” DSU President, José-Marie Griffiths said.

Schieffer says it may be hurting more than enrollment.

“If we want a workforce development, if we want an educated society, if we want to make progress, we’ve got to do this,” Schieffer said.

University of South Dakota President Shiela Gestring says establishing a Dakota’s Promise scholarship could be an answer.

“Dakota’s Promise is that financial needs based scholarship program that the Board of Regents are supporting and asking the Governor to support if the revenue is available, all six presidents have identified this as their top priority, the regents have put it forward as a priority, it would serve 470 students its first year and by the time we reach the fourth year it would serve about 1,200 students,” Gestring said.

Before it becomes a reality, Dakota’s Promise needs to get support in Pierre.

“The Board of Regents submits its budget request to the Governor, and then the Governor has to evaluate what revenues are available and if she’s able to find a priority in that nature, and as you can imagine, she’s getting budget priorities from so many agencies, so it will have to go through that process, and if the Governor has it in her budget recommendation, then we will have the opportunity to speak with the legislatures about that request,” Gestring said.

If that happens, supporters say it would not only benefit students and families, it would benefit everyone in South Dakota.

“We would like to have more opportunities for education and work in South Dakota, and we think needs based aid is the gap,” Griffiths said.

“Keep them in South Dakota, improve their lives, improve state revenues and improve the workforce development in South Dakota,” Schieffer said.

Governor Kristi Noem’s office gave a statement. You can read that below.

Governor Noem often says that our state’s greatest potential is found in our classrooms. We must work to ensure the next generation of South Dakotans are educated, trained, and ready to take on the opportunities and challenges of the workforce.

As part of this priority, Governor Noem and the Board of Regents are in ongoing discussions on ways the State can make higher education more affordable for every South Dakota student. The governor will work with the Regents to identify efficiencies and reinvest savings toward the needs of students.

It’s also important to note that the South Dakota Opportunity Scholarship has made significant progress in making college a more viable option for many students. Governor Noem wants to find ways the State can further partner with the Board of Regents and South Dakota families to make higher education a reality for anyone who wants it.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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