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Decline of In-state Public College Students Worries Regents

VERMILLION, S.D. — The state Board of Regents is concerned about the future of higher education and unfilled jobs because more South Dakota residents are foregoing college after graduating high school.

Executive Director Mike Rush said the state needs to make an effort to recruit students and train workers, especially for health care and educational services, which state Labor Department projections show will be in high demand through 2022.

“The supply of new jobs is growing, and those new jobs will be increasingly knowledge based,” said Rush, according to the Yankton Daily Press and Dakotan.

Regent Kathryn Johnson says those not seeking higher education are most often minorities, from low-income families or high school graduates who don’t want more training. Those groups may include families where no relatives attended college, she said.

“We’re seeing tremendous demographic shifts,” she said. “During the last 10-15 years, our enrollment has been steady, but the components are shifting.”

She said the “traditional type” of student is declining and more students are taking online courses.

Enrollment at public colleges has been flat, and Rush said that’s because there are more out-of-state students.

Most of the students who graduate from South Dakota’s six public universities remain in state after completing a degree.

In 2014, about 72 percent of in-state graduates remained in the state through 2015. For out-of-state graduates, the figure was more than 29 percent. To raise those figures, the regents have adopted a goal that calls for ensuring 65 percent of residents ages 25 to 34 hold some type of post-secondary degree or diploma by 2025.

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