Former top officials say South Dakota public universities suffered huge cuts since 2010

Capitol News Bureau

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Two former leaders of South Dakota’s public higher-education system have sent a summary and a report to the governor and legislators, saying more than $240 million of state funding has been cut from state universities’ budgets since 2010.

The documents from Harvey Jewett and Jim Abbott say that a total of $143 million has been cut from state universities’ budgets by lawmakers since 2010, and the state Board of Regents that governs the universities reduced spending by another $89 million over the same period.

Jim Abbott.

Jewett, an Aberdeen lawyer and businessman, served 20 years on the regents, including 10 as board president. He is a Republican. Abbott, a lawyer, is the past president at the University of South Dakota. He was the Democratic candidate for governor in 2002.

Their joint 15-page letter said the six state universities have long been effective, as proven by the student debt-default rate, which is among the lowest in the nation, and the high retention rate of the universities’ graduates in the South Dakota workforce.

The cuts in the 55-page report are cumulative totals and average about $24 million per year.

Wrote Jewett and Abbott, “We should acknowledge that we speak only for ourselves. No one on the Board of Regents or Regental employees have seen this document and we have no idea if they support any of our ideas. This (is) a 10,000 foot view of economic and other support over 21 years.”

They noted that the regents spent about $1.3 billion on new facilities and rehabilitating existing buildings in the past 22 years, with $40 million coming from state government’s general fund, while the other $1,250,000,000 came from students through surcharges and fees, foundations that support individual schools, alumni and “other very generous corporations and individuals.”

KELOLAND News received a hard copy of the letter and report via U.S. mail. You can see the letter pages in the slideshow below.

This is a developing story.

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