South Dakota’s public universities saw students leave much more debt unpaid during COVID-19

Capitol News Bureau
KELO Pierre map locator South Dakota

IMPORTANT NOTE TO READERS: This story is inaccurate. Key information wasn’t in the state Board of Regents’ report. KELOLAND News is preparing a new story.

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Money that students owed directly to South Dakota’s state universities rose substantially during the past year.

A new report to the state Board of Regents shows students were more than $4 million in the red to the six campuses as of June 30, 2020. That was up from less than $2 million on June 30, 2019. State government operates on a July through June year.

Debts more than doubled at South Dakota State in Brookings, University of South Dakota in Vermillion, School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City, and Black Hills State in Spearfish.

Students owed smaller amounts — both in dollars and as percentages — at Dakota State in Madison and Northern State in Aberdeen.

Meanwhile, an annual summary on state government’s obligation recovery center showed private businesses under state contract had less success the past year collecting students’ debts to campuses.

The COVID-19 pandemic was cited as a disruptive force in both instances.

The regents officially accepted their report Tuesday. A spokeswoman said detailed answers would take several days to assemble for follow-up questions from KELOLAND News.

The state Bureau of Administration presented its annual report for the obligation recovery center to the Legislature’s Government Operations and Audit Committee in September.

Another key point in the regents’ report showed total student revenues declined at five of the six universities last year. Dakota State was the exception.

The five-year total for the universities on students’ receivables as a percentage of total student revenue was described as “very good” at 0.47% in the regents’ report. It cites a 2019 survey by the National Association of College and University Business Officials that found “the average dollar amount invoiced outstanding at the end of FY18 was 3.4%.”

Other key points:

— The regents’ system collection policy “provides that when in-house and Obligation Recovery Center (ORC) collection efforts are exhausted and the account is at least two years delinquent, the account will be submitted to the South Dakota Board of Finance for write-off.”

— Bad accounts are written off the universities’ financial statements but the receivable remains on the student’s account with a hold marker.

— “The timeframe when institutions submit requests to the Board of Finance varies. The
institutions usually submit write-offs annually.”

The regents’ system collection policy says in part:

“1.1. All student accounts with an accounts receivable (AR) balance of $250 or more shall
have a hold placed on their account as soon as it becomes delinquent. The hold will stop
a student from registering, adding or dropping classes, or obtaining an official transcript
from the institution.

“1.2. All student accounts with an accounts receivable balance less than $250 shall have a
hold placed on them when the student is no longer enrolled at the university or when the
debt is over 180 days delinquent.

“1.3. A hold shall not be removed until the account is satisfied in full. The institution
recognizing the receivable may exercise discretion and override the hold upon
consultation with the other institution.

“1.4. The hold shall remain on a debtor’s record even after the account is written-off, which
shall stop the debtor from receiving services from the institution until the debt is satisfied.”

Here’s a financial summary, by campus:

SDSU

2019: Grand total of receivables $631,065.84. Student total revenue $143,745,194.00. Percent of receivables to total revenue 0.44%. ORC collections $362,808.71.

2020: Grand total of receivables $1,904,099.92. Student total revenue $134,433,055.61. Percent of receivables to total revenue 1.42%. ORC collections $290,541.99.

USD

2019: Grand total of receivables $560,830.94. Student total revenue $109,447,018.00. Percent of receivables to total revenue 0.51%. ORC collections $351,949.16.

2020: Grand total of receivables $1,085,207.58. Student total revenue $104,483,104.67. Percent of receivables to total revenue 1.04%. ORC collections $334,113.54.

BHSU

2019: Grand total of receivables $228,452.96. Student total revenue $29,373,973.00. Percent of receivables to total revenue 0.78%. ORC collections $171,715.19.

2020: Grand total of receivables $554,742.32. Student total revenue $28,104,575.13. Percent of receivables to total revenue 1.97%. ORC collections $79,891.20.

Mines

2019: Grand total of receivables $78,905.57. Student total revenue $37,233,583.00. Percent of receivables to total revenue 0.21%. ORC collections $67,591.76.

2020: Grand total of receivables $254,916.39. Student total revenue $34,805,198.14. Percent of receivables to total revenue 0.73%. ORC collections $64,990.32.

DSU

2019: Grand total of receivables $148,028.70. Student total revenue $27,874,927.00. Percent of receivables to total revenue 0.53%. ORC collections $117,034.46.

2020: Grand total of receivables $215,137.67. Student total revenue $28,107,913.44. Percent of receivables to total revenue 0.77%. ORC collections $85,308.09.

NSU

2019: Grand total of receivables $104,011.51. Student total revenue $20,359,627.00. Percent of receivables to total revenue 0.51%. ORC collections $99,055.11.

2020: Grand total of receivables $150,882.82. Student total revenue $18,766,788.01. Percent of receivables to total revenue 0.80%. ORC collections $79,419.75.

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