Regents president hopes Dakota’s Promise scholarship hasn’t died

Capitol News Bureau

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Mark Twain’s famous line — “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” — came to mind Friday during the state Board of Regents discussion about the Dakota’s Promise legislation.

The House Appropriations Committee voted 81 to set aside SB 72 earlier in the week, effectively killing the need-based scholarship. The Senate had approved it 32-2 on February 25. South Dakota might be the only state government in the nation that doesn’t have such a program.

The bill would appropriate $2 million to South Dakota students eligible for federal Pell grants attending any of the public, private or tribal higher education institutions in South Dakota, provided the campus would provide a matching amount.

The House committee’s position was that the new state budget taking final shape in the coming week looked too tight to afford a new commitment of that amount.

How dead was the bill, Regents president Kevin Schieffer of Sioux Falls asked during the Friday teleconference.

Replied Paul Beran, the regents executive director, “I don’t think it’s over until it’s over.”

Schieffer suggested to the other eight regents that they make one last round of contacts during the next few days with the House members in their areas to see if they could revive interest.

The session’s main run ends Thursday. Lawmakers are scheduled to return March 30 to handle any vetoes -or other remaining business. So far Governor Kristi Noem hasn’t vetoed any bills and signed more than 85 into law.

The regents are also watching SB 144 that would make changes to the dual-credit program that state universities offer for high school students to take lower-level college courses.

The House appropriators amended the bill from Senator Brock Greenfield so that students — and, in some instances, their high schools — would become responsible for 50 percent of the tuition. They currently pay 33.3 percent. State government would see its corresponding share reduced to 50 percent, from the current 66.6.

Jay Perry, the regents’ academic affairs director, said the proposed change in percentage would hit hardest the students from lower-income households and likely would drive down participation overall.

“I think it stands an above-average chance of passing,” Perry said.

Janelle Toman, the regents’ communications director, said 144 is tied to the budget negotiations, including the search for some pay increase for K-12 teachers, Medicaid providers employees and state government employees.

The governor recommended zero increase for them in her December budget speech.

Perry agreed there was a “reasonable chance” that the 50-50 split for dual-credit tuition would win House approval but the Senate might choose to not concur. That would send 144 to a Senate-House conference committee for negotiation.

Toman said the regents seven pre-filed bills seeking funds for various projects seemed to be in good shape, based on how they fared in their first chambers. They are scheduled for action in their second chambers Monday.

She said the regents are also involved on SB 55 from Senator Ryan Maher that would create an 11-member task force that would examine possible program and administrative efficiencies and cost effectiveness through shared administration of the six state universities. The current House version calls for a report due to the governor and the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Appropriations no later than November 15, 2021.

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