MTI graduation rate ranks well nationally

School board hears yearly report on tech school statistics

The Mitchell Board of Education Tuesday night heard a report on Mitchell Technical Institute, including enrollment numbers, statistics, facilities and budget.

The meeting took place at Longfellow Elementary School. The report, which was given by MTI Vice President John Heemstra, is presented every year to the board as a quick way to get accurate information and statistics on the technical school to the governing board. Joe Graves, superintendent for the Mitchell School District, also spoke to the board about the report.

Heemstra said this is the third year that the Fast Facts publication had been produced and that he would expound more on the some of the statistics when the board of education held its monthly meeting on the MTI campus in February.

But some statistics stood out enough to bring up Tuesday night. The graduation rate, for one. The latest statistics show a 78% graduation rate from Mitchell Technical Institute, a 10% increase from last year, Heemstra said.

That’s an extraordinarily high percentage for a technical school, Graves said. He said in some cases, the reason a student at MTI doesn’t graduate is because the student was recruited away by an industry, even without a diploma.


“We’re all used to high school graduation rates, and high school is dramatically different. If you look at them compared to high school they’re kind of dismal, but this is an incredibly high graduation rate,” Graves said. “Sometimes when you don’t have a student graduate, it’s because industry couldn’t wait for them. They were so needed that they got pulled away from us early.”

Heemstra agreed that the graduation rate at MTI was far better even when compared to other post-secondary schools.

“To put that 78% in context, there are community colleges around the country that are at 50%. And there are some that went from 25% to 30% and they were very pleased with that,” Heemstra said.

Deb Olson, chair of the board of education, said she had seen first-hand how industry recruiters interacted with MTI instructors and tried to discern why MTI students seemed ahead of the curve in many fields.

“I am just continually amazed by the response that industry has toward these programs,” Olson said.

The demand for those students is strong, Olson said, as in some disciplines, longtime industry workers are retiring and companies need to fill those gaps on their staff. In the case of MTI, there aren’t enough students to meet demand.

“Industry (recruiters) said they would hire many more (MTI students) if the programs had the numbers. In many cases these industry people are retiring and there aren’t enough workers to fill those jobs,” Olson said.

Heemstra highlighted a handful of other statistics. The school still has more male students than female students, with the split at 67% male and 33% female. Approximately 91% of students hail from South Dakota.


“We are still primarily South Dakota students,” Heemstra said.

Heemstra also briefly reported on some future plans at the school. Some improvements that are currently in the early planning stages are expanding the commons area at the Campus Center, adding an outdoor lab space for wind turbines at the Energy Training Center and the expansion and renovation of a student lounge, a fitness center and business classrooms at the Muth Electric Technology Center. The board took no action on the presentation but is expected to revisit the report at its meeting in February, which will be held on the MTI campus.

Also Tuesday night, the board:

  • The board also approved the second reading on revisions to board policy 111 on bullying. The board approved the first reading of the revision at its previous meeting in October. The revision adds to provisions to the policy that are required by state statute. A specific form for the reporting of bullying, which was already in use with the district but not part of the bullying policy specifically, was also be presented to and approved by the board.

  • The board also heard a report from students at Longfellow Elementary School, where the Tuesday board meeting was held, on the progress of the Flexible Learning Program now in place at the building.

The next meeting of the board is scheduled for Dec. 9 at Gertie Belle Rogers Elementary School.

Related Topics: EDUCATION
Erik Kaufman joined the Mitchell Republic in July of 2019 as an education and features reporter. He grew up in Freeman, S.D., graduating from Freeman High School. He graduated from the University of South Dakota in 1999 with a major in English and a minor in computer science. He can be reached at
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