Senate kills Dakota Corps program


Susan Smith, Cns

PIERRE (CNS) – The South Dakota Legislature killed a bill March 8 that gave a tuition-free education to some South Dakota students.

The program gave students who went to college in South Dakota and then worked in area of critical need –like engineering or nursing — virtually a free ride to college.

It didn’t include any funding. Gov. Mike Rounds said he would put the force of his office behind efforts to raise private money for the scholarships. If the state’s financial situation improved public money would be used, Rep. Bill Peterson, R-Sioux Falls, said.

“It is not the only answer but it is one of many answers we can use to encourage South Dakota to grow,” Peterson said.

South Dakota’s public or private universities accepting the students would have agreed to waive up to $4,500 in tuition and fees.

Private universities would also have had to fill in the difference between their annual tuition and the $4,500. That’s where lawmakers disagreed.

Rep. Phyllis Heineman, R-Sioux Falls, said the bill limited the ability of private colleges and universities to participate. Private schools on average give their students $5,200 a year, she said.

“That already is a challenge for most of the private colleges in South Dakota,” she said.

South Dakota’s public colleges and universities already have an advantage over private schools in the form of the $140 million in state funding they receive, Rep. Mel Olson, D-Mitchell said.

“If the purpose (of the bill) is to increase the intellectual capital of South Dakota then it shouldn’t matter where they go,” Olson said.

Lawmakers argued about the bill during the last day of the session’s main run on March 8, but couldn’t reach a consensus. They killed the bill, but vowed to come back next year with a solution everyone could agree with.

“It’s just not possible to get this worked out this session,” Rep. Chris Madsen, R-Spearfish, said.

The House voted 65-5 to kill the bill. The Senate voted 24-11 to do the same.