The South Dakota Board of Regents has sought a tuition freeze for in-state students, with the ultimate goal of students paying no more than 50 percent of their tuition.
SDBOR Director of Communications Janelle Toman said this is not the first time the regents have requested a freeze in tuition for student residents of South Dakota. In fact, at the end of the 2014-2015 academic year, a tuition freeze did exist.
“We were hoping to extend a tuition freeze for this academic year from the end of the last school year,” Toman said. “We rerequested that for the upcoming year in order to make higher education affordable for our students.”
For some students, like Megan Leebens, a freeze in tuition may have a positive effect on the rest of her time at South Dakota State University. Leebens, a senior third-year architecture major, has one year of undergraduate classes and two years of graduate school remaining.
“That’s good to hear as a college student. In architecture, we have to travel study as part of our curriculum,” Leebens said. “It will be nice to have money leftover to put toward those trips if tuition costs don’t go up.”
Most of South Dakota’s public universities have tuition ranging anywhere from $14,800 to $16,800, but these reasonable prices don’t always affect students’ decision to attend a certain university. The cost of SDSU didn’t impact Leebens’ decision when choosing which university to attend.
“Since I live so close and wanted to come here anyway, the tuition was a benefit, but not necessarily a huge factor in my decision to come to school here,” Leebens said.
Tracy Welsh, director of admissions at SDSU, said it’s too early in the process to know whether or not a freeze in tuition would influence enrollment on campus. “It’s more complex than just freezing tuition and expecting an enrollment increase. It’s way too early to predict whether that will have an impact or not,” she said.
Other factors that had an effect on enrollment in the past few years include the lower population of high school seniors and the work force, but Welsh believes if the request is approved, benefits will certainly be noticeable.
“The tuition freeze is determined as a benefit for students and that certainly helps with recruitment,” Welsh said. “If they do enact it, that is a win-win for students and for recruitment.”
The tuition freeze request is for all six public universities under the SDBOR. Toman said though students can always work more or seek further scholarship support, the state has a responsibility to its students.
“It’s important for students to have an affordable education. The state has a responsibility to support higher education,” Toman said.
If Gov. Dennis Daugaard chooses to include this request in his own request to the South Dakota legislature in December and if the plan is approved, the tuition freeze will become effective in July 2016.