Where is VHS’s Class of 1998?

Where is VHS's Class of 1998? by David Lias Vermillion citizens who fear that their public high school's Class of '98 has fallen victim to the dreaded "brain drain" that seems to afflict the state can rest assured.

A majority of young people who graduated from Vermillion High School last spring are either continuing their education or have found employment in South Dakota.

That's not to say the state has been able to completely plug up the brain drain as far as Vermillion students are concerned.

Top students have left

Naturally, some are going to colleges or universities out-of-state. Some have enlisted in the military, which also has taken them away from Vermillion and South Dakota.

Vermillion High School Guidance Counselor Len Griffith does spot a disturbing trend, despite the rather positive numbers.

Nearly all of the cream of the crop that graduated from VHS last spring are studying out of state.

"Fifty percent of the top 24 students (who graduated from VHS last spring) went out of state," Griffith said. "These are students who had from a 3.0 to 3.8 GPA."

It is difficult for South Dakota to keep its better students within its borders, Griffith said, because those students qualify to attend many schools nationwide.

"Better students are more inclined to go out of state," Griffith said. "They do qualify for more out of state schools. And, all higher institutions, including our own, are looking to attract out-of-state students."

Student statistics

Of the 112 students who officially graduated from Vermillion High School in 1998, 34 females and 19 males are attending in- state colleges or universities.

Four females and six males are attending in-state technical colleges.

That means that over half of the grads — just over 56 percent, in fact — are pursuing post secondary education in South Dakota.

Seventeen females and 12 males, or nearly 26 percent of the graduating class, are currently studying at out-of-state colleges or universities.

Eleven male members of the class enlisted in the military. Four females and four males are working full time in South Dakota. And just one graduate is attending, as Griffith terms it, an "other school."

Trend is improving

Griffith, who is in his 23rd year as a guidance counselor at Vermillion High School, said South Dakota higher education institutions are remaining competitive with their out-of-state counterparts.

In fact, he said, the trend for grads to travel out of state for their education is decreasing.

"I think when I first came here, more kids were going out of state," Griffith said. "Back then, there was a lot less interest by the people of South Dakota to market their higher education institutions."

Today, thanks to better marketing, South Dakota is retaining more of its graduates in its higher education facilities, he said.

"I think today we're getting more of the better students than we used to," Griffith said.

He knows, however, that it isn't possible to retain every South Dakota high school graduate in the state. Even certain scholarships or other incentives offered by South Dakota colleges, universities and vocational institutes may not be enough.

"Many times, an out-of-state institution may offer a better program for a particular student," Griffith said. "It's not that our programs are bad. For example, you can't study architecture in the state. You have to go out of state if you plan to be an architect."

He added that students, in general, don't view South Dakota as an inferior place to continue their educations.

"I can't think of anyone who has come to me who has thought that living in South Dakota would be an obstacle to them," Griffith said.

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