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WDTI official says institute was starting changes before probation

RAPID CITY-- An executive for Western Dakota Technical Institute said Monday changes already were planned before the school was put on probation by the agency that accredits it.

RAPID CITY- An executive for Western Dakota Technical Institute said Monday changes already were planned before the school was put on probation by the agency that accredits it.

"They're not concerned about the actual numbers," Steve Buchholz, vice president for institutional effectiveness and advancement, told members of the state Board of Education. "It's how we're using the data."

Deb Shephard, a board member from Watertown, and the retired president of Lake Area Technical Institute, said she was "sympathetic" to WDTI's situation involving the regional Higher Learning Commission's review.

"They're not going to have difficulty cleaning this up. It's just a matter of doing it the way HLC wants it done," Shepard said.

Bobbi Rank, a lawyer for the state Department of Education, said state law doesn't address accreditation for technical institutes and the state board doesn't have a role.

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"Western Dakota Tech will obviously keep the department and board informed about this process," Rank said.

WDTI President Ann Bolman read a prepared statement to the state board.

"It is important to understand the commission's concerns have nothing to do with the quality of the education Western Dakota Tech students receive," Bolman said.

"Instead, the HLC believes improvements can be made to the college's processes regarding assessment of student learning, persistence and completion rates, and institutional effectiveness," she continued.

"As you know, 98 percent of Western Dakota Tech's most recently surveyed graduates were either working, in the military, or continuing their education six months after graduation," Bolman said.

Buchholz said the concern now is about the potential effects on enrollments. He said information is being spread to accurately inform the community about the matter.

"We already had procedures and plans in place to address these problems," Buchholz told the state board.

"This is really about the documentation processes we have in place," he added.

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Bolman said the data is presented at every advisory committee meeting for the school, but it hasn't been pulled in a documented way into the overall institutional effectiveness planning.

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