Regents question higher price for off-campus programs

Associated Press

Associated Press

PIERRE- It would be up to the Legislature to decide whether tuition at off-campus programs should continue to cover the cost of those courses, a state lawmaker says.

Jerry Apa, R-Lead, said Jan. 22 the self-support system has been a long-standing agreement between the Legislature and the Board of Regents.

Some regents wonder whether nontraditional students should have to pay higher tuition than those taking classes on the campuses of the six state-supported universities.

But Apa, Senate chairman of the Joint Appropriations Committee, said the self-support concept was a big part of the discussion when the Legislature let the regents locate higher education programs in Sioux Falls.

The University Center in Sioux Falls is one of the spots for off-campus programs in the state.

“There is not one person at this table not sympathetic to the financial plight of the universities,” he said. “Right now, that higher education facility in Sioux Falls, we have our six universities involved. They all have ownership in that facility.

“If we ever leave the self-support concept, I think that each and every university will lose that ownership. We will have a seventh university, and if you think you have financial problems now, we’re really going to have them in the future.”

Harvey Jewett of Aberdeen, Board of Regents president, said self-support is the tuition rate charged for off-campus programs and state-support is the rate paid on the campuses. The difference means $24 a credit hour more at off-campus programs in Pierre, Rapid City and Ellsworth Air Force Base, he said.

And the self-support rate is $40 a credit credit hour higher than the state-support rate in Sioux Falls, which includes the equivalent of a fee for facilities, board officials said.

All six public universities offer classes at the University Center. The students generally are older than 24, and many have families and jobs.

As off-campus enrollment grows, Jewett has said there’s a fair argument by students taking such courses that equity demands the same tuition for the same credit hours.

“It’s where our campuses are going to grow,” Jewett said of off-campus programs. “If we’re going to have 20 percent more bachelor’s degrees, we don’t have enough college kids, traditional college kids ages 18 to 23, to (meet) that number, because they’re going to go down.”

Jewett said the board will continue with the two-tiered system unless legislators agree to change it.