PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The South Dakota Board of Regents is seeking “a qualified and experienced consulting firm” that can analyze the current and future financial conditions of the state’s six public universities, as well as collect data from each campus on enrollment trends at the college, department and program levels.

The formal request went out Friday. Proposals must be submitted no later than September 20. The contract would start on or after October 5 and run through December 31, 2024, with three years of additional work possible.

The announcement comes after the regents’ recent planning retreat that concluded August 2.

“In South Dakota, we have six vibrant universities,” said board president Tim Rave. “Each campus is doing incredible work that directly influences our state’s economy. With the information we receive from this study, we can further tailor those efforts and create a dynamic and lasting impact.”

The South Dakota Legislature in 2020 ordered the regents to assemble a task force to study the operations and functions of the institutions of higher education under the board’s authority. That resulted in the SB 55 Report that the regents approved in October 2021 and delivered to the governor and the Legislature. The regents received the latest update at their recent retreat.

Governor Kristi Noem has appointed seven new members to the board in the past two-plus years: Doug Morrison, James Lochner, Randy Frederick, Randy Rasmussen, Judy Dittman, Jeff Partridge and Rave. The two longest-serving members are Pam Roberts, who was first appointed by Governor Dennis Daugaard in 2016, and student regent Brock Brown, who was first appointed by Noem in 2020.

Regents by law hold a six-year term and, for those appointed after July 1, 2018, can’t be reappointed to a third full consecutive term.

In announcing her latest appointment, Noem said, “I have been working with the board to ensure that our kids and grandkids are receiving the best education possible, free from indoctrination and harmful, divisive ideologies. I am confident that Dr. Dittman will advance this cause through her new role on the Board of Regents.”

The Republican governor sent a letter to the regents in May in which she expressed concerns about several topics including graduation rates and campus drag shows. She also told them she was setting up a whistleblower hotline.

Among the topics discussed by the regents during their three-day retreat was a report on enrollment challenges. The board also put in place a new productivity plan for the campuses to follow.

The regents govern the University of South Dakota at Vermillion, South Dakota State University at Brookings, Dakota State University at Madison, Northern State University at Aberdeen, South Dakota School of Mines and Technology at Rapid City and Black Hills State University at Spearfish. They also oversee two university centers: USD-Sioux Falls and BHSU-Rapid City.