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More in SD graduate from college, tech school
Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

PIERRE — South Dakota’s public universities and public technical institutes increased their graduates during the past half-decade, according to reports delivered to a new coordinating panel.

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The Legislature established the Council on Higher Education Policy Goals, Performance and Accountability last winter to bring together state education, labor and economic development officials to work with the governor and members of the Legislature on common interests. It met for the first time Wednesday.

Lawmakers directed that the council meet in 2013 and 2014 to monitor progress on increasing graduates of posthigh school education and increasing the growth capacity of the state’s economy.

Starting in 2015, the council for the first time will set a four-year plan that coincides with the next four-year term of office for the governor that also begins in 2015.

The Legislature used the work of a legislative study committee that had met in 2012 as the basis for creating the 19-member council.

Neither of the two lawmakers who headed the study, Sen. Russ Olson, R-Wentworth, and Rep. Tad Perry, R-Fort Pierre, remains in the Legislature.

Perry attended the council meeting Wednesday.

He said the state constitution established the Board of Regents, whose members manage the state universities, but doesn’t set specific goals.

The constitution also doesn’t mention the system of four technical schools that are managed by local school boards and operate within the general supervision of the state Board of Education.

The result has been reaction to whatever issue demands attention in a given year. Perry saw it firsthand as the regents’ executive director for 15 years prior to his final retirement in 2009.

“You can’t sustain a policy direction if you do that,” he said.

The five-year trend for the universities shows more degree majors awarded at each of the six campuses during that span and an overall increase from 5,746 in fiscal 2009 to 6,711 in fiscal 2013, which ended June 30.

The technical institutes’ report used a different format. It showed a general trend of more graduates for the four campuses in total, increasing from 1,875 in 2007 to 2,312 in 2012.

The individual numbers bounced around, depending on the campus and the year.

Only Western Dakota Technical Institute at Rapid City had fewer graduates — 318 — in 2012 than in 2007, when there were 320.

The accountability reports also presented other statistics such as retention, remediation, graduate placement, degrees awarded to at-risk students and affordability.

The council will meet again in December 2014.

The next round of reports will look deeper at American Indian participation, the 20-plus percent of high school students who don’t go to post-secondary institutions, high-need occupations, affordability and remediation.

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