Lawmaker proposes merging administration of two South Dakota universities

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PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — If a South Dakota Senator has his way, the Board of Regents will combine the administration of Spearfish-based Black Hills State University and Rapid City-based South Dakota School of Mines and Technology.

A bill introduced Tuesday by Sen. Ryan Maher (R-Isabel) would require the Board of Regents to develop a plan to share the administration of the two universities separated by about 50 miles.

The Board of Regents is against the bill, according to executive director Paul Beran.

“The Board of Regents is familiar with Senate Bill 55, and intends to oppose the measure. The legislation calls for a ‘plan’ and a timeline to achieve shared administration at SD Mines and BHSU. We don’t think legislation is necessary to examine efficiencies,” Beran said in a statement to KELOLAND News.

The proposal comes as the state’s public university system as a whole and those two schools are seeing shrinking enrollment.

The fall headcount of on and off-campus students at both universities in 2019 was 6,387. That is a 4.5 percent decrease from the previous year.

“The Board of Regents previously discussed shared administration and services at these two campuses, and issued a report in January 2004, without any bill being enacted into law,” Beran said

As of Wednesday afternoon, Maher was the lone sponsor of the bill.

KELOLAND News looked at the make-up of the staffing at the BHSU and SDSMT. The dark blue in the chart below is administrators.

Maher’s legislation calls for the regents to put a plan together by November 2021 addressing: a timeline, the reduction in workforce, short-term costs, long-term savings and financial gains, educational enhancements and impact on facilities.

“The efforts that will be undertaken to ensure that only administrative services of the two institutions are shared and that the history, heritage, mission, traditions, educational offerings, athletic programs, foundation, alumni association, and every other aspect of each individual institution is maintained,” Maher wrote in the bill.

The two universities are fundamentally different. A KELOLAND News analysis of the degree programs at both School of Mines and Black Hills State found only three programs were the same and two similar programs between the two.

The South Dakota School of Mines and Technology is primarily focused on science and engineering academics and research, while Black Hills State provides associate and bachelor degree programs in the liberal arts and sciences, education, business and technology.

Top graduating programs

  • James (Jim) Rankin is the president of the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. The salary for this position is currently set at $358,176Read More »
  • Laurie Nichols is the president of Black Hills State University. The salary is currently set at $254,490Read More »

KELOLAND News reached out to each university and have yet to receive a statement.

The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Appropriations. There is no date set for a hearing, as of Wednesday afternoon.