SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — State officials heard on Jan. 24 another request for tuition freeze.

The South Dakota Board of Technical Education requested a tuition freeze at the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Appropriations meeting. Gov. Kristi Noem didn’t recommend a tuition freeze in her December budget address.

The board sets tuition and approves courses for Southeast Technical College in Sioux Falls, Lake Area Technical College in Watertown, Mitchell Technical College in Mitchell and Western Dakota Technical College in Rapid City.

The state Board of Regents also requested a tuition freeze during its meeting with the committee earlier this week.

Nick Wendell, the executive director of the technical board, said the recommended request for the fiscal year 2024 budget was a tuition freeze along with a 5% inflationary increase in per-student allocation (PSA) funding based on a formula for credits and full-time student equivalent.

“Five percent will help us keep up with accelerating costs…,” Wendell said. The per FTE funding helps pay for operational costs.

The FY2024 request also included increases for salaries, Wendell said.

The total PSA student request is $4,941.66, Wendell said.

The breakdown for an increase uses the 5% for inflation, a 6% salary increase that was included in the FY2023 budget for the first time and another 5% salary increase. The items would allow a tuition freeze and freeze on fees.

Those three points are rolled into one line item for PSA.

The technical board also recommends a 5% salary increase for targeted technical instructors in the FY2024 budget

The technical instructor increase will “help us target salaries that fall outside the trade price range,” Wendell said. Technical colleges aren’t competing with other schools to hire certain technical instructors but with the private sector.

Wendell used the example of a survey instructor on one campus who could likely have retired. It will be difficult to replace that instructor even with a targeted pay increase, he said. “We are hoping to attract people who value education,” Wendell said. A potential candidate is one who wants the chance to teach and give back to the industry, he said.

Committee member Republican Rep. John Mills asked how the technical board determined what the salaries of targeted technical instructors would be.

The board works with the South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation to help determine the fair market range for salaries, Wendell said.

Committee member Republican Rep. Tony Venhuizen said the technical board should roll the inflation increase, the targeted salary increase, the general salary increase and the $10 deduction applied to tuition into one line item on the budget. Venhuizen said the board should consider that before the committee looks at the budget again.

Wendell said the board would be open to that suggestion.

Wendell also provided the committee with an overview of technical college data.

The current campus head count is 7,240 which includes dual credit students, full-time and part-time students, he said.

Committee co-chairwoman Republican Sen. Jean Hunhoff said most of the growth has been in dual credit students. Dual credit students are high school students who take college classes.

The technical college head count would be 5,894 without dual credit students, Wendell said. And Hunhoff is correct, most of the growth over the past several years has been in dual credit students.

“Enrollment has been stable with full-time and part-time students,” Wendell said.

Postsecondary numbers in South Dakota indicate there is room for growth, Wendell said.

Research shows that roughly 51% of South Dakotans do not have any type of postsecondary education, he said. The percentage includes residents who do not have any certification, a degree from a technical college or from a four-year college. Some residents may have completed some classes but they did not a complete certification or a degree.

In the region Western Dakota Technical College serves, there is some mentality of not going to college, said president Ann Bolman.

“We are really challenged by some good pay for jobs that don’t require skilled employees,” Bolman said.

As pay has increased in unskilled labor jobs, students have chosen those instead of postsecondary education, Bolman said. But, if that employee does see they are missing out, they will often decide to attend a postsecondary school, she said.

Still, “it will be a big challenge to turn that (mindset) around,” Bolman said.

Wendell said the technical colleges continue to tell the benefits of a technical college education.

The job market will increasingly demand a skilled labor force that a technical college can provide, Wendell said.

Graduates have high job placement rates including 98.4% who were placed within six months of graduation, he said. Those graduates were employed, entered the military or continued their education.

Of the graduates, 91% were employed and 89% of those were employed in South Dakota, Wendell said. Of that 91% employed, 93% were employed in their field in the state.