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LETTER: Headline was not accurate

(metro creative)

To the Editor:

An Aug. 9 Mitchell Daily Republic headline suggested the Board of Regents is considering hiring a marketing firm to seek money from the Legislature. We'd like to make it clear: that is not true. The article accompanying that headline accurately reported that we did hear a pitch from a marketing firm that included one proposal targeted at the Legislature. That proposal was rejected clearly and loudly by every Regent present — before that pitch was even finished.

So what are we considering? Among other things, we're considering ways to meet South Dakota's workforce needs, prevent huge financial liabilities for the state, and to provide individual opportunity in the process. This includes an education campaign targeted at our state's dramatically increasing immigrant and minority student population and an action plan to go with it. We're looking for the most effective, cost-efficient way to engage a new and very different generation of South Dakotans — and to provide them the opportunity to visualize and achieve their aspirations and to build our state in the process.

Over the past seven years the state's population of color grew at nearly twice the national rate, and more than six times faster than did the non-Hispanic White population. Growth in South Dakota high school graduates through 2027 will be paced primarily by racial and ethnic minorities. Specifically, major increases are expected for Black (+413.5 percent), Hispanic (+147.8 percent), Asian (+146.0 percent), and American Indian/Alaska Native (+43.0 percent) students. Graduation figures for White non-Hispanic students during this same period are flat. Our population is shifting fundamentally. By 2027, racial minorities will account for 27 percent of public high school graduates in South Dakota (vs. 13 percent in 2012).

Increasingly, South Dakota's future workforce will be either first-generation immigrants, minority, or another "underrepresented" individuals. This shift presents exciting opportunities and difficult challenges. Postsecondary education can be the difference between this population growth becoming a drain on South Dakota's limited financial resources or a solution to our critical workforce needs. The Board of Regents is focused on preventing the first and achieving the second.

Kevin V. Schieffer, President

South Dakota Board of Regents