Issue: Noem’s budget proposal means well but has glaring issues for higher education


Editorial Board

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem proposed a $4.94 billion state budget for fiscal year 2021 and highlighted the anti-meth campaign, special education and disaster relief.

During Noem’s campaign, a key pillar of her candidacy was refusal to increase taxes. By proposing cuts to the budget rather than a tax increase to make up for the shortfall, she holds true to that promise.

Following the $449,000 “Meth. We’re On It.” campaign, Noem proposed an increase of over $3 million for meth treatment services and $145,000 to have two full-time criminal analysts specializing in narcotic cases in the state.

This increased effort to combat the devastation of meth in our state tells us that Noem is putting her money where her mouth is, which is a welcomed sight.

Noem also furthered disaster relief after flooding overtook much of the Midwest, proposing new full-time employees and over $62,000 to assist with administering the $17 million the state received from the federal government this summer.

In addition to rebuilding after the disasters seen this summer, Noem looks to keep building on cutting-edge industries and helping connect communities across the state. Noem proposed $5 million for the development of 5G internet in the state through the Connect South Dakota initiative.

Investing in faster, more reliable internet service is huge for rural school districts and will impact the way our communities connect.

Alongside these increases, Noem proposed an increase of nearly $14 million for state aid to special education and millions to South Dakota Board of Regents schools for expansions, like a $5 million investment in the University of South Dakota’s new health services building.

We support many elements of Noem’s proposed budget. However, Noem didn’t address a glaring problem in the state: needs-based scholarships.

It’s no secret that the state of South Dakota is far behind the nation when it comes to these scholarships.

According to the Students’ Association Resolution 19-05-R, South Dakota provides $849 per student dollar.

In comparison to neighboring states, we aren’t even close, to put it lightly.

Iowa puts $4,058 toward these students, Minnesota gives $2,105, North Dakota $1,664 and Nebraska $1,225.

It doesn’t stop there, though.

When it comes to Pell Grant recipients, the numbers have an even bigger disparity.

Need-based funding per Pell recipients is $17 in South Dakota, but surrounding states blow that number out of the water.

Nebraska gives $562, while Iowa puts forth $863. Those are the two states in the area that don’t give a thousand dollars toward Pell-eligible recipients. North Dakota gives $1,081, Colorado sits in third with $1,263, followed by Minnesota’s $2,109 and Wyoming takes the cake with $2,620.

To us at The Collegian, it is disappointing to see the governor fail to address this glaring issue. We feel that Gov. Noem’s proposed budget had many bright spots. However, we also feel that she must address the needs of those seeking an education in our state.

The Collegian Editorial Board meets weekly and agrees on the issue of the editorial. The editorial represents the opinion of The Collegian.