Public universities fuel South Dakota economy

Esther Swift Reporter

Public universities in South Dakota account for 17 percent of the state’s federal funds, according to the Encyclopedia of American Politics.

This, in part, is due to the influence of students in local communities, money generated from the universities and an increased workforce from university graduates.

“You can think of this university as the engine. What does the engine take in? It takes in raw talent, students, faculty and research dollars and the outcome is trained professionals and research discoveries — both of which have economic value and drive the economy forward,” said David Chicoine, professor of economics and former president of South Dakota State University. 

According to the 2010 South Dakota Board of Regents economic impact study, South Dakota universities are responsible for $1.97 billion per year in long-run economic impact. The six SDBOR institutions bring in more than $275 million in Federal Funds each year. 

According to Chicoine, students are currently making large impacts on the economy. 

“Because students are here and need to practice [in their academic fields], the communities become the place in which they practice,” Chicoine said. 

Campus displays the efforts of aspiring architecture students, nursing students, and engineering students and other areas of focus. Chicoine refers to these efforts as “value being created.”

Many of these students remain part of the South Dakota workforce after graduation. According to the SDBOR economic impact study, nearly 33 percent of out-of-state students will remain in South Dakota after graduating. 

Seth Goepferich, a freshman pre-nursing student from Cottonwood, Minnesota, understands this point of view. 

“A benefit of staying in South Dakota would be the relatively low cost of living. As a person with likely student loans it would make sense for me to stay here,” Goepferich said.  

Mike Rush, executive director and CEO of the SDBOR, collected most of the information found in these SDBOR studies. 

“College education is directly correlated with greater economic vitality,” Rush said.  

People who earn a four-year degree make 72 percent more in wages than those without a college education, according to Rush.

People who earn an associate degree make 26 percent more than someone without a college education, and those with some college education make 13 percent more. Since the recession in 2008, jobs requiring a bachelor’s degree have grown by 82 percent, and jobs requiring an associate degree by 41 percent. Jobs at the high school graduation level have decreased by 14 percent, according to Rush. 

A 2015 Georgetown study on education and the workforce suggests that South Dakota needs 65 percent of its citizens to hold some type of post-secondary credential in order to meet the job requirements for the year 2020.

Rush believes higher education is what will help propel South Dakota into a prosperous economy. “Those states that invest in the intellectual capital of their citizens are those that will be able to compete in the new economy,” Rush said.