S.D. regents want law repealed that requires higher tuition rates for off-campus courses

Capitol News Bureau

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The higher tuition at South Dakota’s university centers that the Legislature required 15 years ago as a condition for allowing them to open might be on the way out.

The state Senate Education Committee on Thursday unanimously recommended the repeal. SB 27 would remove all references to self-support tuition. The bill next goes to the full Senate for consideration as early as Friday afternoon.

The state Board of Regents oversees the public universities and wants the repeal. That suggests Governor Kristi Noem does too, because the governor appoints the regents.

For the current year, undergraduates pay $251.35 to $257.95 per credit hour for an on-campus course at the six traditional universities — South Dakota State, Northern State, Black Hills State, Dakota State, University of South Dakota, and School of Mines and Technology — but pay $351.25 per credit hour for off-campus instruction, including at the centers.

Heather Forney, the system vice president for finance and administration, said the regents have a group studying tuition and fees.

The regents established university centers at Sioux Falls, Rapid City and Pierre during the late 2000s. One of the conditions lawmakers required was students pay higher tuition for courses at them.

Low enrollments at the centers led the regents to eventually withdraw most programs at the Pierre building and re-cast the Sioux Falls campus as the USD Community College for Sioux Falls.

Brian Maher, the regents’ executive director, told senators Thursday the different tuitions reflect a different era.

“Technology has changed instructional delivery. So too has lifestyle,” Maher said. Many students now take a blend of courses on-campus and on the internet. “COVID-19 has accelerated a trend that was already gaining momentum,” he said.

Repealing the self-support tuition requirement can help the Sioux Falls campus compete with community colleges in neighboring states, according to Maher.

Said Forney, “We wouldn’t generate additional revenue by changing the rates in any way.” The armed-forces tuition discount will continue to be available, she added.

Senator Jim Bolin, a Canton Republican, called the situation “a classic example of how times change.”

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