University Sioux Falls officials say their school can fill a void left when a community college closed. USF is preparing to launch a program aimed at helping people learn English so they can go to college or become skilled workers. A program that used to help those students ended earlier this year. Now USF leaders say they’re resurrecting the opportunity.
The Bridges program at Kilian Community College taught people advanced English so they could better communicate. Former Bridges instructor John Michels says the program equipped students for options like tech school or college – or preparing to enter the workforce.
"When I worked in the program, we helped students develop an academic understanding of the English language. We introduced them to college-level vocabulary specific to several disciplines, and we went through the ideas and theories behind a lot of these phrase and words and terms that we take for granted," Michels says.
The Bridges program ended in May when Kilian closed after being a part of Sioux Falls for nearly four decades. USF President Mark Benedetto says Kilian provided education to people from various backgrounds and communities.
"We grieved when Kilian closed. Nobody wanted that to happen, and so we were talking about how we can step up," Benedetto says. "Our University of Sioux Falls desires truly to be more diverse culturally. We not only desire it, but this is an opportunity to embrace that diversity."
Now the University of Sioux Falls is assuming the program. Benedetto says educators are starting with Kilian’s model. He says USF has the opportunity to recruit more students who can benefit from the Bridges program.
"We plan to keep the tuition at the same level that it’s always been at at the Bridges program at Kilian, so when we talk about USF using some of our unique features to change the Bridges program, it’s really not about cost. We’re committed to keeping the cost to where it’s affordable," Benedetto says.
The University already had a relationship with Kilian. Recent Kilian students could transition to a USF program and graduate on time – students like Sarah Epp, who didn’t think she’d ever go to college.
"I’m in the social work degree completion program, so I’m a non-traditional student. I work. I raise two children," Epp says. "So I have a lot going on, so I need a school that is willing to work with what I can do, too, and USF is exactly that school for me."
University of Sioux Falls officials say USF will get some Kilian assets to support part of the new Bridges program. The college also plans to open the Dr. Thomas Kilian Academic Success Center.
USF leaders say they should be serving students after the first of the year.