PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — A South Dakota legislative panel on Tuesday backed a plan aimed at giving state universities and technical schools their fair share of any increases in state revenue.
The proposal, which will be submitted to the full Legislature in January, does not require the governor and the Legislature to fund the schools at any particular level. It instead suggests a formula for funding the schools. The panel voted unanimously to endorse the proposal.
Under the proposed formula, the six universities and four technical schools would first get extra funding to account for inflation, up to a maximum of 3 percent a year. They then could get added funding to cover increased enrollment and additional programs offered. Finally, the schools could get added money for expanding research and producing graduates in math, science, engineering, technology or other critical fields.
Rep. Tad Perry, R-Fort Pierre, said the measure at least gives the Legislature a framework for discussing high education budgets, an improvement over past decisions that were not based on specific criteria.
“Things just happened in the last decade. Now we would have a framework where we could say: ‘Stop and think about it,’” said Perry, who was director of the state Board of Regents before he became a legislator.
For example, if total state revenues are projected to increase by 6 percent in a year, the universities and technical schools might get a 3 percent increase for inflation, a 2 percent boost for increased enrollment and a 1 percent addition for expanding research and producing more graduates in key fields, Perry said.
Harvey Jewett of Aberdeen, a member of the Board of Regents that governs the six state universities, said the university system budget has effectively been reduced by $100 million in the past dozen years because of actual cuts and the lack of increases to cover inflation. At the same time, enrollment in the universities has grown by 8,000 students, he said.
Rep. Susan Wismer, D-Britton, said she would prefer that the bill require use of the funding formula, but Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard apparently wanted the recommended formula to be non-binding.
But Sen. Larry Tidemann, R-Brookings, said a recommended funding formula is a good first step.
“I seek this as a great start in investing in post-secondary and higher education” Tidemann said.
The six universities have a total budget of $805 million this year, with $168 million of that coming from state general funds. The four technical institutes have a total budget of $21.5 million, with nearly all of it coming from state appropriations.
The bill also notes that higher education’s goals are to increase the number of graduates for the state’s workforce and to boost the state’s capacity for research and development. A new council would be set up to monitor progress toward those goals.
The council would include the governor, members of the Legislature and education officials. Lawmakers made it clear the council would not interfere with the Board of Regents constitutional responsibility to govern the universities or the state Board of Education’s legal power to regulate the technical schools.
The legislative panel also approved bills that would require the state Labor Department to report job placements for state university graduates and would require state agencies to report how university graduates perform on licensing or certification examinations.