South Dakota Editorial Roundup

Excerpts from recent South Dakota editorials

The Associated Press

The Daily Republic, Mitchell, Aug. 29, 2013

Governors probably shouldn’t skydive

Call us buzzkills if you must, but we feel compelled to ask: Should our governor be jumping out of a plane?

Gov. Dennis Daugaard agreed to skydive with DeLon Mork, operator of the Madison Dairy Queen, if the restaurant sold 32,000 Blizzards on Miracle Treat Day to raise money for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Mork and the restaurant surpassed the goal by selling 38,412 Blizzards.

Daugaard and Mork had originally planned to skydive Aug. 15 but could not make the jump because of weather conditions, so they rescheduled and jumped in Madison on Aug. 28.

It’s great that the governor is doing something for charity, but there are many, many other things he could have done to raise funding and awareness for the Children’s Miracle Network. For example, why not put on an apron and serve blizzards for a day?

We don’t mean to disparage Dairy Queen or the Children’s Miracle Network. We at The Daily Republic participated in the fundraiser, buying blizzards for our employees. A portion of the proceeds from blizzards sold on Miracle Treat Day went to the Children’s Miracle Network, and Dairy Queen has reported that about $5 million was raised nationwide for the charity.

The Children’s Miracle Network reports that since 1983, the organization has raised more than $4.7 billion for 170 children’s hospitals across the United States and Canada. Donations have helped support research and training, purchase equipment, and pay for uncompensated care.

So, again, we stress: What the Children’s Miracle Network does, and what Dairy Queen does for the Children’s Miracle Network, is deserving of praise.

We just don’t see why it should all add up to our state’s top elected official jumping out of a plane. While some view the stunt as brave, and it surely is, we also think it’s too dangerous for a man in Daugaard’s position.

We the voters of South Dakota elected Dennis Daugaard to serve us for at least four years. We pay him a handsome salary. We provide him with a house in Pierre. We provide him with transportation. We provide him with security when it’s needed. We do all this at taxpayer expense, to help ensure that Daugaard will be fully able to execute the duties of his office for as long as he holds it.

In return for all that, we think he owes us the courtesy of not taking unnecessary risks that could cut his life and his term short.

___

Rapid City Journal, Rapid City, Aug. 29, 2013

Regents hold line on tuition

President Barack Obama recently spoke at the University of Buffalo in New York to lament the rising cost of a college education. The average tuition cost at public, four-year universities has tripled over the last 30 years, and the president told students that making college affordable is “an economic imperative.”

If Obama wanted to call attention to a university system that is trying to hold down college costs, he should have spoken at one of South Dakota’s public universities. Earlier this month, the South Dakota Board of Regents announced it would freeze in-state student tuition.

The Regents’ gesture isn’t entirely aimed at holding the line on postsecondary education costs. The tuition freeze was being offered in exchange for more support from the Legislature — about $6 million of the Regents’ proposed $11.6 million budget increase would be used to offset higher education costs.

The tuition freeze would have the effect of preventing additional education expenses from being assessed against students while shifting the higher costs to taxpayers.

The Regents’ proposed tuition freeze comes after a report on enrollment at the state’s six public universities showed a shift to more students taking off-campus courses while students attending classes continue to decline. The report showed a 42 percent increase since 2007 of students seeking degrees through off-campus courses, with an almost equal number taking non-degree coursework off-campus. The courses can be taken online or at one of the university centers in Rapid City, Pierre and Sioux Falls. During the same period, on-campus enrollment rose just 2 percent.

The reason for the increase in off-campus enrollment is the adoption of technology that brings college classes within reach of many residents at a reasonable cost, and more nontraditional students are seeking a postsecondary degree.

Meanwhile, South Dakota School of Mines & Technology continues to be the enrollment leader among the public universities with a 16 percent increase in students over the six-year period to 2,365 students in 2012. As universities go, South Dakota’s six public universities that include the School of Mines and Black Hills State University, among the best higher education bargains in the country with an average tuition $2,000 less than the national average.

While the president complains about the increasing unaffordability of a college education, South Dakota and the Board of Regents are taking steps to increase access to college courses while keeping the cost of taking a class or obtaining a degree within reach of many of South Dakota’s families.

Mr. President, if you want to learn more about how to hold down the rising costs of a college education, come to South Dakota and see for yourself.

___

Argus Leader, Sioux Falls, Aug. 31, 2013

Give higher education a boost next year

College students might have something to smile about when classes start next year.

A one-year freeze on tuition and mandatory fees at the state’s public universities is in the works, and if approved by the Legislature, it could represent more than a nice back-to-school gift next fall.

It could be the catalyst for a new era of higher education funding in this state.

First things first. The South Dakota Board of Regents would freeze tuition for a year if Gov. Dennis Daugaard and the state Legislature agree to add $6 million to the state’s fiscal year 2015 budget. The money would offset costs of salary and operational funding increases on the campuses for a year, allowing the regents to freeze tuition for South Dakota students.

It’s a good idea, and a proposal the governor and Legislature should accept. Other states are doing the same thing, realizing how costly college education has become for students. In this state, for example, tuition and fees have risen 92 percent during the past 10 years, with annual increases in recent years ranging from 4 percent to more than 10 percent.

But we have even higher hopes than just a one-year reprieve from rising tuition costs. If legislators decide this is a one-time thing, the burden on students will be magnified in subsequent years as they are asked to fund even higher annual increases. That’s one step forward and two back.

We believe this tuition freeze could set the Legislature on a long-needed course to increase dramatically public spending on higher education in the state.

Lawmakers should take this opportunity to look with fresh eyes at their philosophy in funding higher education. Use the $6 million addition to set a new base for higher education funding and grow the total each year from there.

South Dakota has a budget surplus this year, so it’s a good year to propose this. But the truth is that there is money to do it every year. It’s a matter of will and priorities.

For too long, education funding has come at the end of state budget discussions. Witness the comment from Sen. Deb Peters, chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, when asked about the regents’ proposal earlier this month.

While acknowledging that ever-increasing tuition rates could price “regular-income families out of the market, let alone low-income families,” Peters went on to say that there are other agencies and funding needs beyond higher education.

“If we have any money left over at the end of the budgeting process, we’ll try to target where we can get the best bang for the buck, and where it’s needed most,” she said.

We believe that philosophy is backwards. Education should begin — not end — the annual budget discussion. Start by adequately funding K-12 and higher education, and then work through the many other important needs.

From scholarship programs and residency expansions to faculty training and building upgrades, the six public universities are in need of financial help.

We must invest in our higher education system if we want top-level research and training programs in our universities. That is how we help assure quality employment opportunities in South Dakota in the future.

It won’t happen without a shared vision for higher education, and this action to freeze tuition one year should be a key step toward achieving that goal.

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