I am certainly excited about increased enrollment in the South Dakota University system. The research and development done by these institutions will act as a lead factor in guiding South Dakota’s future. We have much to be excited about in this state. We have an influx of bio-fuel plants, the Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory, possibly a new oil refinery, and increased graduate programs in science, math, engineering, and technology.
However, I came across this chart which depicts South Dakota’s falling K-12 enrollment, as noted by the article below from the Webster Reporter and Farmer. This should be of concern to us because the K-12 system drives higher education in our state. More facts from the Board of Regents website reveal that in-state students make up the vast majority of students going into higher education… while out-of-state students comprise about one-fourth (26.45% in 2007).
Looking at the chart we can see South Dakota lost approximately 10,000 K-12 students from 1997-2007, a short ten years, with only a slight increase from 2001-2002. This is a trend which we cannot let continue.
I interpret this graph as loss of schools and communities across South Dakota which punches holes in the economic, social, and educational fabric of our state.
While we celebrate the success of higher education in South Dakota, let’s continue to work for the schools and communities that are struggling to survive, because of they fail, the future will look bleak for higher education as well.