Regents president says community key in state’s first community college

Education

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The key to make a community college work and keep it affordable in South Dakota will be the community. That’s according to the South Dakota Board of Regents President, Kevin Schieffer. Traditionally, community colleges are for students seeking a two-year associates degree. It’s also a cheaper alternative where they can complete their general classes before moving on to finish at a four-year university. Most states give community college systems money to offset tuition costs. We’re finding out how affordability will be feasible at a community college here, since South Dakota does not. 

“The community college for Sioux Falls is a done deal,” Schieffer said. 

South Dakota educational leaders say turning the University Center into a community college will be a good fit for students who fall somewhere in the middle of a technical school and four-year university. 

“I think that the University Center has been trying to find its way for several years now, and there is a void in higher education we know we can fill,” Vice-President and Dean Carmen Simone.

However, there’s still a lot to learn to make this all work. 

“What is not a done deal is how the community is going to engage in it. What level? There’s so many details to work out,” Schieffer said.

Schieffer says because there’s no state mechanism for funding, finding partnerships is crucial. He says that could mean teaming up with private sector business interested in workforce development and the City of Sioux Falls. Schieffer remembers his own work experience that involved job training. 

“It would’ve been wonderful to have a resource like this where they could send them instead of having your own private little university at your business,” Schieffer said.

Schieffer says the Vice President and Dean of the University center, Carmen Simone, has a background in the community college system. He also emphasizes this would be supported within the South Dakota university system, and is attached to the University of South Dakota, South Dakota State University, and Dakota State University. Schieffer says we could see some of these changes as early as next semester. 

Going forward, Schieffer says a community college will happen, but there’s still a lot of details to work out. 

“To me, this is about creating the potential to do something really extraordinary in Sioux Falls, but it’s not just going to happen automatically. It’s going to take a really big community involvement to make a true community college work,” Schieffer said. 

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