Sioux Falls public college attempt hampered by enrollment

KELOLAND.com Original
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The state’s, and perhaps Sioux Falls’, quest for a public college campus may be coming to an end.

The South Dakota Board of Regents wants to sell or be unattached with its debt from what is now called the Community College for Sioux Falls. The options are included in a BOR l SB 55 Task Force Report and Recommendations plan. The task force plan was accepted/approved by the BOR at an Oct. 6 meeting. It will be sent to Gov. Kristi Noem and to the Legislature’s joint appropriations committee.

The educational facility was created to meet the needs of the state’s students as well as offer higher education to the Sioux Falls area. The state did not offer state-supported tuition and students ended up paying higher tuition fees in the end.

Enrollment started to decline in 2011 and never recovered, which meant the center had less revenue to cover expenses.

But it didn’t start that way. The campus once had more students that Augustana or the University of Sioux Falls, according to KELOLAND News story.

According to the BOR’s plan for the campus, successes do remain and one option is to keep some those successes such as the University of South Dakota’s Graduate Education and Applied Research Center (GEAR Center).

1992 to 2007

Changes have followed the 1992 establishment of the Center for Public Higher Education (CPHE) in the Bergeland Center in downtown Sioux Falls, according to a history on the University of South Dakota Community College for Sioux Falls website. The year 2001 was a big one as the institution changed its name to USD.SDSU.DSU at Sioux Falls in June after it moved to the campus of Southeast Technical Institute in January.

Less than a year later it was re-named USDSU.

A KELOLAND News story reported on July 29, 2004, that USDSU had a fall enrollment of 1,825 students. The USDSU enrollment was second only to Southeast Tech’s enrollment and more than that of Augustana or the University of Sioux Falls, a USDSU official said.

Photo from the USD Community College for Sioux Falls website.

KELOLAND News stories from 2004 to 2007 reported increasing enrollment at the site, it was also noted that the intent of USDSU was not to grant degrees. Instead, students would take classes at the Sioux Falls site but would still earn degrees from the participating public colleges.

In each news story, officials said the growth on the campus could mirror the growth of Sioux Falls.

A Jan. 3, 2006, KELOLAND story reported that enrollment had increased by 65% over the past five years.

“The bottom line when we get down to it is that public higher education is critical to Sioux Falls and South Dakota in terms of economic success and viability,” then Gov. Mike Rounds said.

In August of 2006 the name was changed again to the University Center Sioux Falls (UCSF).

Again, while not a full-fledge public college that would offer degrees, the state Legislature and students acted like it was.

The Legislature decided to invest $36 million in a new campus with classrooms and a new research facility.

Enrollment continued to grow and more course programs were added.

Enrollment was at 1,900 students in the fall of 2006 and 2,100 in 2007, a KELOLAND News story from Nov. 26, 2007, said. By this time Northern State had joined USD, South Dakota State University and Dakota State University in offering courses.

A campus official said in 2007 that it wanted to grow enrollment by 67% over the next five to seven years.

Enrollment declines, focus and name change

The UCSF did add an administration and classroom building and the GEAR building in 2009. A science and technology classroom building was added in 2011.

Even with the additions, the 2007 hope of enrollment growth didn’t materialize.

The USD Community College for Sioux Falls website said enrollment was declining.

In 2012, the state BOR adopted a UC Foundation to reduce tuition for general education courses with the hope of stabilizing declining enrollments. The USD website said enrollment continued to decline in 2013.

After a 2015 meeting with Sioux Falls business leaders, the focus at the UCSF began to change.

In 2016, the shift began toward two-year programming with USD named the lead institution. The USD Community College for Sioux Falls (CCSF) was established in 2019.

Declines in enrollment cited in 2013 continued from 2016 to 2020, according to the BOR website. Full-time enrollment dropped from 1,301 students in the fall of 2016 to 578 in the fall of 2020, according to the BOR website.

Part-time enrollment decreased from 717 in the fall of 2016 to 199 in the fall of 2020.

BOR plan suggests nursing, research use

While selling the science and technology classroom building is an option, the BOR also said in its report that SDSU could use the building for its health and science programs that already have a presence in Sioux Falls.

The GEAR program could expand into the main building at the CCSF campus, according to the BOR plan. The research center operates near maximum capacity and is considering expansion options, the BOR task force said.

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