The Dakota Corps Scholarship targets specific workforce needs in South Dakota and provides students going into those respective fields with scholarship money, according to Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs for the Board of Regents Paul Turman.
Former governor Mike Rounds started the program one year after the Opportunity Scholarship was founded. According to the scholarship’s official website, the scholarship was created to “encourage students to obtain their postsecondary education in South Dakota,” “remain in the state upon completion of their education” and “contribute to the state of South Dakota and its citizens by working in a critical need occupation.”
Governor Daugaard had taken on responsibility for fundraising, and with the help of businesses such as Sanford Health and Great Western Bank, the scholarship program continues to grow.
If a student graduates and obtains a job in the field that they applied and were granted the scholarship for, and works in the state for the number of years equivalent to the years they received the scholarship for, the student does not need to pay it back. For example, if a student receives the scholarship for four years to obtain a high school math teaching degree, upon graduation the student must remain in South Dakota for four years in a high school math teaching position.
For various reasons, some students end up paying back their scholarship, due to issues such as a changed major or the inability to find work in the specific field the scholarship was granted for. In this case, students reimburse the fund. The reimbursed money then goes back into the scholarship account and is given out to other scholarship recipients. According to Turman, about 52 people, or 1 in 6 students awarded the Dakota Corps Scholarship, have had to pay back their funds.
“Scholarships are awarded based on statistics found by the Department of Labor that indicate and project high workforce need,” said Turman.
To obtain the scholarship, a student applies for it before their freshman year of college and is considered based on academic credentials including GPA, ACT score and an essay. The scholarship board reviews the applicants and makes a selection. The selected students then receive a promissory note, and all tuition and fees are deducted from the student’s account by the institution the student attends, Turman said.
According to Turman, 34 new students were awarded the scholarship this year in varying fields including teaching, nursing and pharmacy. Around 100 students are receiving the scholarship this fall.
SDSU Financial Aid Assistant Amanda Stirling said that 55 students currently enrolled at SDSU are receiving the Dakota Corps Scholarship.
“SDSU offers a lot of the degrees that the scholarships are given out to,” Turman said. “More than half of all the Dakota Corps Scholarships have been awarded to SDSU students. The Rabbits definitely benefit from this scholarship.”
According to Stirling, the scholarship pays for 16 credits per semester and general fees such as the university support fee and the general activity fee, but it does not pay for housing.