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State lawmakers frustrated by Legislature's lack of involvement in new Sioux Falls 'community college'

PIERRE, S.D. — South Dakota legislators were frustrated by their lack of previous involvement in a proposal to change Sioux Falls' University Center to a pseudo-community college during a Wednesday, May 22, hearing with state university leaders in the state Capitol.

Presidents of the University of South Dakota, South Dakota State University and Dakota State University on Wednesday presented to the Legislature's Appropriations Committee a plan to rebrand the University Center into The Community College for Sioux Falls. Approved by the Board of Regents on April 5, the so-called community college will operate as a college under USD and will provide classes for Sioux Falls-area commuter students through USD, SDSU and DSU.

The college will not be funded as a traditional community college, but will instead be self-funded, said USD President Sheila Gestring. She said the college is planning to offer academic certificates, associate's degrees and workforce training, and credits earned through the college could be transferred toward four-year degrees.

Despite the college's independence of state general funds, legislators said they were frustrated by the Board of Regents' lack of communication with the Legislature about the change.

Sen. Brock Greenfield, R-Clark, said "the Legislature should have been involved long ago."

"There should not have been discussion going on for four years and then spring it upon the Legislature and the public days after the legislative session ended," he said. "It's easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission. I find the whole thing to be frustrating, and it's not the way that business should be conducted."

The Board of Regents holds the authority to make changes to its own programs and does not require permission from the Legislature to do so.

Gestring said to the committee, "I pledge to you that we will keep you better informed than we have in the past."