When Ryan Maher looks at the administration of the two state universities in the Black Hills, he sees costly duplication.
Maher, a Republican state senator from Isabel, added up the salaries of the top eight or nine administrators at each campus. The schools are Black Hills State University in Spearfish, and the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City.
The salaries total $1.2 million at Black Hills State, and $1.5 million at the School of Mines, according to Maher.
He’s drafting a bill requiring the Board of Regents to consolidate the administration of the schools. He said the savings from eliminating one set of administrative jobs could help reduce tuition.
“Put that all under one administration,” Maher said. “They’re 50 miles apart. It’s 2020. With technology the way it is, there’s no reason that you could not save the state some money by just combining administrations.”
The executive director of the Board of Regents, which oversees the state’s universities, is Paul Beran. He said Maher’s idea needs a lot of discussion and examination before a decision is made.
“There’s an awful lot of opportunity for conversation with the Legislature,” Beran said. “I have great respect for Senator Maher and for the Appropriations Committee and how they’re trying to move the state forward by making sure that we’re as efficient as possible.”
Maher does not expect the bill to pass this year. He wants to flush out the opposition, he said, and start the conversation.
“You might not pass something the first year,” Maher said. “But these bills that get filed, they have a way of coming around every five years and passing.”
Lest anyone think Maher is picking on schools he doesn’t like, it’s worth noting where he went to college: Black Hills State, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in 2000.