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Dakota's Promise: Needs-Based Scholarship Bill Returns


The South Dakota Board of Regents is pressing lawmakers to support needs-based scholarships for college students. Senate Bill 72 establishes the Dakota’s Promise scholarship for low-income students. It hasn’t yet reached committee, but a similar bill last year passed the Senate unanimously before failing on the House floor.

During an informational presentation to the Senate Education Committee, Board of Regents Executive Director Paul Beran says this year’s bill addresses some of the concerns raise last year.

For instance, Beran says lawmakers wondered if the students receiving the scholarship would be successful in college. This new bill establishes other requirements beyond financial need, including an ACT score of 22 or higher and a high school GPA of at least 3.0.

Beran says establishing the Dakota’s Promise scholarship will improve both enrollment and graduation rates in South Dakota’s universities.

“And this is a group of students we want to stay in the state," he says, "because our statistics show that 70% of people who graduate from South Dakota universities stay in South Dakota, while students from out of state—and we recruit a lot of students from out of state—but only about 30-35% of those stay in the state and work in South Dakota.”

Beran says South Dakota is losing out to surrounding states with higher per-student aid allocations. South Dakota offers $17-dollars-a-year in state aid per eligible student, compared to more than $800 in Iowa and more than $1,000 in North Dakota.

Beran adds the one-to-one matching funds established in Senate Bill 72 have widespread support from university administrators.

“We’re asking for $2 million to be matched by—and I want to point out that every university president both public and private have committed to being able to match the $1,250 per year with another $1,250 for $2,500 per student.”

The bill is assigned to the Senate Committee on Appropriations for an initial hearing. It’s not yet on the committee’s agenda.