Union will grow, tuition will rise

Justin R. Lessman

Justin R. Lessman

Plans for an $8.6 million renovation of the University Student Union building received the stamp of approval from the South Dakota Board of Regents when it met in Vermillion last week.

Students will pay $3 more in student fees per credit hour.

“Obviously, we are very happy,” said Eric Erickson, Students’ Association president. “It is something we really needed, and now it’s finally going to become a reality.”

He said the regents decided the impact on SDSU student fees was not excessive and the need for an expanded union merited the increase.

The plan would enclose the courtyard that lies between the north and south hallways of the current building for dining. Most major expansion will occur above this, including a complete remodeling of the Volstorff Ballroom. The expansion will also affect the bookstore and add meeting room space.

“When you look at the long lines of people in the bookstore or at the food court, you realize how much we needed this,” Erickson said.

He expects groundbreaking in summer 2004.

5.8% Cost increase

The regents approved a 5.8 percent increase in tuition, room and board and mandatory fees for the 2003-2004 school year, meaning that South Dakota undergraduate students will pay an additional $420 more per year.

The cost hike will cover increased faculty salary and benefit costs, and fund the BOR’s salary competitiveness program, not to mention a $1.6 million hit on unfunded increases in health insurance costs for state employees.

Despite the higher cost, Regents President Harvey Jewett said the increases are relatively moderate.

“At a time when public universities in other states are raising costs to students by double digits, I am pleased the Regents were able to hold our increases to a more modest level,” he said. “It is never easy for the board to raise the students’ costs.”

With the 5.8 percent increase, an undergraduate student in South Dakota taking 32 credit hours per year will end up paying an average of about $7,871 next school year.

Erickson said some sort of increase was expected and the amount seemed like a fair compromise.

“We expected this vote,” he said. “It really could have been a lot worse, what with the current budget situation and health insurance increases.”

In the current budget year, South Dakota’s weighted average cost was second-lowest in the eight-state region, with only Idaho reporting lower total costs.

Along with the overall increase, the BOR approved an additional fee hike for students enrolled in certain health care-related programs at SDSU, Dakota State University and the University of South Dakota.

Those involved in the nursing, pharmacy, respiratory care and dental hygiene programs next fall will be assessed a per-credit fee of $16.85 to go toward improving faculty salaries. The BOR said university officials had lobbied for this increase in an attempt to prevent teachers from taking higher-paying jobs in the private sector.

Erickson said this increase was merited.

“It goes to a good cause,” he said. “It will help us keep better faculty here on campus and maybe even bring in other fine faculty. Look at it as a great investment.”

New major

SDSU received approval last Friday to offer a bachelor’s degree in software engineering, the first such program in the state.

The new program, closely aligned with electrical engineering and computer science, will focus on the application of engineering concepts and methods to software systems development.

“Anything to expand on different areas of education offered here at SDSU is a great step forward,” Erickson said. “This will help the university stand out.”

Harvey Jewett, BOR president, said the new program is needed in this part of the country.

“There is a growing demand in South Dakota for professionals with expertise in advanced computer technology,” he said. “This degree will help us meet those needs right here at home.”

University officials estimate that about 25 students will choose it yearly.

The regents were quick to endorse the major because no new funds were requested.