BROOKINGS, S.D. (KELO) — The task force the Legislature told to seek efficiencies in South Dakota’s public universities held its final meeting Thursday and outlined dozens of recommendations.

The process resulted from Senate Bill 55 passed during the 2020 session. Still to come is a final report, due to the governor and the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee by November 18.

“We have more work to do. You won’t see everything in this Power Point today,” said Brian Maher, executive director for the South Dakota Board of Regents that governs the state-universities system.

The panel of regents, state lawmakers and various leaders looked at academics, administration and infrastructure.

The Legislature had already passed SB 55 a few months before Maher, the former Sioux Falls schools superintendent, interviewed last summer for the position with the regents.

“I would tell you a year later we’ve got a lot done, we’re nearly home, but we haven’t crossed the finish line yet,” he said. 

The regents finished their 2014-2020 strategic plan last fall. The SB 55 recommendations will shape the new plan, Maher said.

Accomplishing the recommendations starts Friday with a meeting of the system’s central staff, followed by a meeting of the campus presidents next week and the regents’ board meeting June 23-24 in Madison.

Maher said there will be a series of public town-hall meetings “the old-fashioned way” to explain the SB 55 process and recommendations. “I think Senate Bill 55 gives us a real opportunity to tell our story,” he said.

Among the recommendations highlighted Thursday:

  • More uniformity, stabilization and oversight in salaries.
  • Black Hills State University in Spearfish and South Dakota School of Mines and Technology combining travel reimbursement and student ID functions.
  • System-wide approach to Title IX and equal employment opportunity. 
  • Single-system approach to high-performance computing.  
  • System-wide use of voice over internet protocol (VOIP) for telecommunications.
  • System-wide efficiencies (LEAN) approach.
  • System-wide approach on distance education. 
  • System-wide functions for human resources.  
  • System-wide information technology for students and employees. 
  • Continuing review of institutional funding. 
  • Request proposals for system-wide food contract and analyze whether there would savings or incentives for better service. 
  • System-wide single sign-on strategy.
  • System-wide IT security. 
  • Incentives for collaboration to reduce duplicative programs and courses.
  • Review West River nursing programs in Rapid City. 
  • Revise institutional mission statements to better recognize unique purposes of each.
  • Reduce duplicative online courses with low enrollments. 
  • Limit duplication of new academic programs. 
  • Continue Ellsworth Air Force Base collaborations. 
  • Modify program productivity and course section-size standards, and revise standards for new academic programs.
  • Develop a new model for new buildings and building improvements.
  • Adopt system-wide telehealth for student mental health services via contractor.
  • Collaborate with legislators and the state auditor on contract processing improvements. 
  • Make changes to central staff operations that reflect other changes to centralized functions.
  • Use the BHSU-Rapid City campus as a West River Health Sciences Center for nursing programs 
  • Develop a new business model for the Community College of Sioux Falls center that could include restructuring, a sale or a new emphasis or role. 
  • Consolidate South Dakota State University’s health-related programs in Sioux Falls, including pharmacy and nursing, possibly at Community College of Sioux Falls campus or other sites.  
  • Collaborate with legislators and state officials on utility and energy savings.
  • Capture savings on bond refinancing. 
  • Reduce paper HR forms.
  • Propose changes on household moving allowances.
  • Expand advocacy with stakeholders including K-12 schools, state Board of Technical Education, business and industry leaders.

“We think we can do a lot better job of telling our story in different environments,” Maher said.