State wants increase in graduate numbers

Meghann Rise

Meghann Rise

Recently South Dakota joined with Complete College America, a non-profit program that requires post-secondary institutions to focus on increasing the number of citizens who hold a credential or a degree.

Within the last two months, South Dakota decided to join CCA in an attempt to increase enrollment numbers, improving South Dakota’s ability to compete for jobs.

“As a state, we need more residents who have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher in order be able to compete for information-age companies and jobs,” said Jack Warner, executive director and CEO of the South Dakota Board of Regents. “Today’s economy has been described as a human-capital economy. Companies will choose locations where the population is highly educated.”

Sam Gingerich, BOR system Vice President for Academic Affairs, said the program will increase the number of graduates by providing a framework that coordinates a range of activities while requiring the system and the campuses to establish goals to which they are accountable.

“We plan to increase graduates by improving retention rates,” said Warner. “We are changing our approach to math remediation using computer-assisted instruction to supplement what goes on in class.”

Along with retention, increasing enrollment is part of CCA’s plan to increase the graduation numbers.

“(We are) looking to enroll more adults through our university centers and distance learning,” said Warner. “We will also continue to recruit out-of-state students since the younger age demographics continue to decline in South Dakota.”

A main focus of the program is helping dropouts.

“The project is targeting students who have dropped out with 90 or more credit hours but who do not hold a degree,” said Gingerich.

The state will start working at high schools because “students who enter college prepared to do college-level work are more successful,” said Gingerich.

To help prevent dropouts, another goal of the program looks at the amount of time students take to graduate from college. There are numerous reasons students drop out of college, but it often comes down to money.

“A number of recent studies show that approximately 75 percent of the students who stop out or drop out from college do so for financial reasons,” said Gingerich.

As an aid to help dropouts, policies will be under review and put in place.

“The system will review retention efforts to make sure strategies are in place to minimize the number of students who drop out or stop out,” said Gingerich. “The system will work to re-enroll students who have dropped out.”

The state plan to reach out to students who lack a significant number of credits to lessen the number of dropouts.

“We are contacting them individually, analyzing their transcripts to determine the best and most efficient path to the degree and advising them about the best option to take, given their personal circumstances,” said Warner.

Besides financial reasons, students take so long to graduate because they switch majors. This was the case for Miranda Carmon, a senior business economics major.

“My first major was chemistry-based, and then I decided to switch majors, so I switched schools,” Carmon said. “If I would have been introduced to more classes related to my major sooner, I would have realized I didn’t like the major I had chosen and switched sooner.”

As more employers expect some form of post-secondary education, the program works to prepare the population.”Less than 40 percent of young adults in this country hold an associate’s degree or higher,” said Warner in a BOR press release.

Warner said these percentages come from other states that are ahead of South Dakota in this aspect.

Getting students through school at a decent pace is becoming more essential. CCA will play a large role in how South Dakota approaches education at a college level.

“Through participation in this effort, institutions within South Dakota will be able to learn about successful initiatives in other states while we share what we are doing here,” Gingerich said.