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Higher Education Tile (Photo: Argus Leader / Thinkstock)

A group of South Dakota education officials are spending the next month studying the future of the state’s university system, looking at things like academic programs, administration, and infrastructure and ancillary services. 

The 20-member higher ed task force met for the first time Thursday in Rapid City to go over how the study will work and how it fits in with Senate Bill 55. 

The bill was passed in the 2020 legislative session directing the study, according to a press release from the South Dakota Board of Regents.

“Our universities have a long history of education, research, and service in South Dakota,” stated Brian Maher, the regents’ executive director, who serves as task force chair. “A single board of regents for all state institutions of higher education was first organized by the 1890 South Dakota Legislature. The present form of constitutional governance has served us well since 1897.”

More: Regents: Spring semester for SD colleges will move forward as planned

The task force spent most of the first meeting hearing a comprehensive overview about the university system, which has six public colleges, and challenges brought up by former university presidents about similar studies during a panel discussion. 

“See if there’s anything that comes up to the floor that’s missing,” Kathryn Johnson, a former regent, advised the task force during the panel. “Not what can be taken away, but what is missing that needs to be added. I look at how the system isn’t static. It’s just so dynamic, and so much of that comes from forces outside of our control.”

The task force, made up of the regents, lawmakers, college presidents and more, then broke out into three subcommittees to assess three areas and figure out where to go next. 

The group is expected to examine the following and develop a plan, according to the bill:

  • The possible combining of administration at all levels of operation within an institution
  • The possible combining of operations and functions across multiple institutions
  • The possible combining of the administration of programs across multiple institutions
  • A review of the duplication of program offerings
  • A review of the academic majors with low enrollments and low numbers of graduates
  • A review of functions outside the core missions of teaching, learning, and research
  • A review of the operations and functions provided as an efficiency through the central office of the Board of Regents
  • A review of the viability of the university centers
  • Any other possible cost-effective measures the task force determines are worthy of examination

The study’s results will be reported to the Legislature and Gov. Kristi Noem no later than Nov. 15, the press release states.

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