SDSU, USD plans could mean trouble


After over a year of debating the issue, SDSU students and alumni are thoroughly tired of the proposed Division I move.

Both sides of the argument have persuasive ideas, although it ultimately appears that SDSU will pursue a move to Division I, provided it gets the backing it requires from the Board of Regents.

For the record, the Collegian has already stated (Sept. 17, 2002) that it favors the move, as it will likely foster the kind of growth SDSU seems to want to pursue. In addition, it will make the school the state’s premium university.

Now, in response to SDSU’s pursuit of Division I, the University of South Dakota, the second-largest university in the state, has announced that it is mulling over plans to restrict enrollment and make USD a smaller school, more focused on academics. USD wishes to become the “Ivy of the plains,” according to an “Argus Leader” article of Sun., Dec. 8.

While SDSU’s plan to move up to Division I is fraught with danger and problems, USD’s plan is just as dangerous, potentially even more so.

To be fair, focusing on academics makes sense for USD. The school is smaller and doesn’t have the funding or infrastructure to pursue making the leap to having over 10,000 students. In addition, its medical and law schools will always keep it one of the two or three pre-eminent institutions of higher learning in South Dakota. It would seem to make sense that the stringent requirements to get into the medical and law schools should also be applied to undergraduate programs.

However, USD should proceed with caution if it is to begin a process of becoming more exclusive. Sure Harvard and Yale are ridiculously exclusive and carry pedigrees most other schools dream about. But Harvard and Yale have hundreds of years of reputation and tradition, basis in major metropolitan areas and statuses as large, Division I schools.

SDSU, while going Division I, certainly isn’t going to become Harvard or Yale either. But given time, it could become a University of Nebraska or a University of Minnesota. USD’s best hope may lie in becoming a St. John’s or a Carleton-both small schools with extremely focused and prestigious academic programs.

Neither approach is surefire. Both could spell big trouble for the two largest universities in the state.

However, if these plans are implemented carefully, it could signal the dawn of new eras for both SDSU and USD.

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