District 17 State Rep. Tom Jones has been appointed to the Postsecondary Education Interim Committee. This committee will meet during the summer to study and come up with suggestions for the next legislative session on higher education's purpose and funding. The 15-member committee made up of state senators and representatives will meet four times this summer
The first meeting was held in Pierre. They stated that the purpose of postsecondary education was basically four fold: educating leaders for the 21st century, raising the educational attainment in South Dakota, growing the South Dakota workforce, and enhancing South Dakota's economic development.
The first to testify were Dr. Jack Warner, executive director of the South Dakota Board of Regents and Kathryn Johnson, president of the Board of Regents. A good portion of their testimony was directed at the purpose of postsecondary education. They also addressed the importance of our state to invest in postsecondary education. A brief history of funding was presented and they did discuss the outcomes and changes they would like to see as a result of this committee.
Next, Deb Shepard, president of Lake Area Technical Institute in Watertown and Greg VonWald, president of Mitchell Technical Institute testified with the relationship that the technical schools have with postsecondary education. In addition to replying to the initial four questions, they also reported that in a 2010 survey, 96 percent reported either being employed, continuing their education or entering the military. A great statistic they pointed out was that 86 percent were employed in a training-related career field.
Dr. Melody Schaap, our Secretary of Education for South Dakota, spoke about preparing K-12 students for entry into postsecondary institutions. We need information earlier in high school to better prepare students. A strong data system is necessary to get this done.
A general agreement was made that the three groups today all compete for the limited monies available from the state. But rather than competing for these dollars, it will help students by working together to better prepare students entering the work force.
Then next meeting will be in August. It was suggested that each of the reaming meetings be located across the state in communities where these schools are located.