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ND tribal college expands into Rapid City

RAPID CITY (AP) — North Dakota-based United Tribes Technical College has expanded into western South Dakota's Black Hills.

The new Rapid City branch, housed in the old National American University building, could provide much-needed skilled labor for the Bakken oil fields in western North Dakota, officials said during a grand opening celebration this week for the college's Black Hills Learning Center.

Many oil wells are on tribal lands, according to college Board Chairman Tex Hall, who also is chairman of the Three Affiliated Tribes in northwestern North Dakota.

"We have the jobs, just not the work force," he said.

The Bismarck, N.D.-based college offers 20 certificate programs, 26 associate degree programs and three bachelor's degree programs. Classes in Rapid City begin Aug. 26, the Rapid City Journal reported. The college did not have an estimate on how many students might be enrolled.

South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard, who attended the grand opening ceremony on Wednesday, said higher education is practically a necessity for landing a good job in the current economy.

"A high school diploma is no longer enough," Daugaard said. "Places like the United Tribes Technical College can offer people of all color the opportunity to provide for themselves and their families."

United Tribes Technical College is run by the five American Indian tribes in North Dakota. It opened in 1969, and since then has served more than 10,000 students from more than 75 tribes across the nation. The school had more than 500 part-time and full-time students last year, along with nearly 50 high school students taking dual-credit courses.

"We are here because we have a cultural, spiritual and economic calling," vice president Phil Baird said during the Rapid City ceremony. "Collectively we are about rebuilding Indian nations ... we are here in the Black Hills to extend ourselves to our relatives."