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State board eliminates cap on fees for students at public tech schools

The state Board of Education eliminated a fees cap for students at South Dakota's four technical institutes Monday.

The cap limited fees for payment of lease purchase agreements to 20 percent of total tuition and fees. The board took its action during a meeting at Northern State University in Aberdeen.

State Department of Education official Tiffany Sanderson said the repeal was necessary. She said part of the reason was additional funding provided by the Legislature, at the governor's recommendation, to offset a tuition increase for the coming school year.

Sanderson said the repeal also was needed because of the long-term plan to continue raising fees for new facilities and improvements at the campuses.

The institutes are at Watertown, Mitchell, Rapid City and Sioux Falls. The repeal didn't face any opposition.

"No written public comments were received," said Don Kirkegaard, of Sturgis, the board's president.

No one testified at the public hearing held by the board Monday. None of the board members had anything to say, either. The next stop for the repeal is the Legislature's rules review committee. The panel's six members will decide whether the repeal can proceed.

In March, the board kept tuition at $104 per credit hour, a result of the $1 million in additional funding, but raised two fees by a total of $4. That puts tuition and fees at $137 per credit hour for the coming school year.

The state board is shifting to a new system where each campus would keep the maintenance and repair money raised from its students. The long-term target is spending 2 percent of the property value.

The $3 maintenance and repair fee brought in $496,685 in the fiscal 2013 year that ended last June, according to the state Bureau of Finance and Management. The fee increases to $4 for the coming year.

To reach the 2 percent goal, the maintenance and repair fee revenues would need to reach approximately $3.9 million, based on the 2013 values for the buildings at the four campuses.

That means the $4 fee would need to more than quintuple, and inflation would require further increases.

The facility fee has increased annually for at least four years. It was $11 per credit hour in the 2009-2010 academic year, and has been gradually raised to $25 per credit hour for the current school year. The facility fee will be $28 per credit hour for the 2014-2015 year.

The board didn't receive any public comments during a hearing Monday on new standards for physical education.

There will be additional public hearings at Rapid City and Pierre later this year on the proposed standards.