By Gov. Dennis Daugaard
Sometimes South Dakota can have an inferiority complex. Because we're small or because we're rural, we sometimes think we don't stack up with other places. But being small and rural doesn't mean being second-rate. Three national news stories recently reported that South Dakota has a lot to celebrate.
The October 2012 issue of Fast Company magazine includes an article entitled "Schooling Cyberninjas." The article reports that the National Security Agency, a part of the U.S. Department of Defense, is working hard to train new computer security experts to protect our nation's online infrastructure from attacks. As the article notes, "The goal is to create a pipeline of government-vetted talent, and with it, a robust line of virtual national defense."
NSA selected four universities to launch NSA-certified cybersecurity programs. One of those four schools is Dakota State University. Gov. Bill Janklow made Dakota State "the computer school" in the 1980s, and in the decades since, DSU has developed cutting-edge programs in information assurance, biometrics, and other information technology fields. DSU has a national reputation for excellence – and it is right here in South Dakota.
Another South Dakota university was featured by Bloomberg News on Sept. 18. The article, headlined "Harvard losing out to South Dakota in graduate pay," noted that while a Harvard graduate earns an average $54,100 starting salary, a new graduate of the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology earns $56,700 on average. That's right – the School of Mines beats Harvard by $2,600. Why is this happening? Because the School of Mines is offering high-quality programs in the engineering fields – where there are lots of jobs and strong demand for more highly skilled graduates.
In a third piece of good news, South Dakota's Lake Area Technical Institute (LATI) was named in September as one of 10 finalists for the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, which is the nation's signature recognition of high achievement and performance in America's community colleges. This is the second year in a row that LATI has been honored in this way.
Dakota State, the School of Mines, and LATI are not alone. Every one of South Dakota's universities and technical institutes offers great programs that prepare our students to compete in high-demand fields – from accounting or medicine at USD, to engineering and pharmacy at SDSU, to banking and music education at Northern State, to science and math education at Black Hills State, to highly focused programs for careers in health care, manufacturing, electrification and other needed occupations at our other great technical institutes.
We hear a lot about the unemployment rate among young people, but that's not a big problem for graduates from any of the programs I just mentioned. It's something for high school students to think about as they plan for higher education: Try to find an education major that will get you a job at the end.
There are plenty of great options, right here in South Dakota.