Sanders: Build Dakota |

Sanders: Build Dakota

So much has been said about the tremendous debts incurred by students for their college education. I’m not sure I would want to hire a lawyer who decided she had to go to Harvard and went $200,000 or $300,000 into debt so she could graduate from a “prestigious” (read: way over-priced) school. If she doesn’t have sense enough to realize she will have the same credentials, juris doctor law degree as someone who graduates from a state supported law school, she may not be the one for me.

Yet there are other avenues to higher education and they may hit closer to home. When was the last time you tried to get an electrician or a plumber to come to your home or place of business? You call them and they are either booked several weeks out or you leave a message that doesn’t get returned. Why? They are in short supply. The going storyline is that for so many years students have been expected to go to a four-year college, at least. The idea of attending a vocational or technical school was considered beneath most students. I am not so sure I believe that line, but either way there are methods to remedy these situations.

I wrote a few weeks ago about Mike Rowe Works Foundation and here is the latest. Rowe was in South Dakota last week for a series of meet and greets with South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard in support of a South Dakota program. Rowe also got to speak with students who had received Work Ethics Scholarships from his foundation.

Daugaard and Rowe toured Midwest Railcar Repair in Brandon, Lake Area Tech in Watertown, and Southeast Tech in Sioux Falls as a way of emphasizing a grand announcement. South Dakota has more than one philanthropist who is generous. At this particular time it was Denny Sanford. He and Gov. Daugaard put their heads together and came up with a plan they dubbed, “Build Dakota.”

Sanford said he would donate $25 million to this scholarship fund, if the state would match it and a private-public partnership was established. The fund allows qualified students (in state or out of state) a full-ride to support tuition, fees, books and required program expenses at one of four technical schools: the Mitchell Technical Institute in Mitchell, Southeast Technical Institute in Sioux Falls, Western Dakota Technical Institute in Rapid City or Lake Area Technical Institute in Watertown. Lake Area earned $1 million for the national Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence in 2017.

Businesses and the technical schools work together to establish relationships between students and potential employees. A three-year commitment to work in South Dakota after completing the technical school program is a requirement.

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