South Dakota is one of the only states that doesn’t offer a need-based financial aid program.
The South Dakota Board of Regents has been working on a program, Dakota’s Promise, to change that.
Dakota’s Promise is a five phase, state-funded aid program that could support 6,000 students once fully implemented. SDBOR has sent a recommendation to Gov. Dennis Daugaard to include the plan in the next year’s fiscal budget.
Josh Sorbe, a Student Government Association senator, recently sponsored a recommendation in support of the plan. It was passed unanimously by SGA.
“The SGA recommendation is to just show that the University of South Dakota student body really supports the idea of the development of a need-based financial aid program,” he said. “Right now there is a huge gap between what students are provided through the admissions office and through the FAFSA and what they need to attend college. So that gap really does inhibit some students from attending Board of Regents institutions.”
Conrad Adam, a USD senior and SDBOR student board member, said Dakota’s Promise is one of his top priorities.
“It’s been a tough year for South Dakota,” he said. “The past couple years have been pretty tough and moving forward with this proposal is essential.”
Adam said in addition to offering aid, Dakota’s Promise could improve the state’s economy.
“I think it’s safe to say even though South Dakota’s state revenues are not projected to be very healthy, this would help the state improve economic development, as well as meeting our workforce needs,” he said.
With a state budget that’s already tight and projections that revenues will continue to be down, the governor’s office couldn’t give an answer on whether or not Daugaard will support the bill.
“The governor is in the process of reviewing budget requests and will make his recommendations in the Budget Address on Dec. 5. With revenue coming in below projections, it’s looking like we’re in for another lean year of limited spending,” said Kelsey Pritchard, the governor’s communications director.
Sorbe said he hopes the USD SGA recommendation will put pressure on the governor to include Dakota’s Promise in his budget. Sorbe has also been reaching out to other regental organizations to do the same.
“By generating this conversation and encouraging students to speak out on behalf of their student government associations to say, ‘Yes, we need this state need-based financial aid program, because there is such a need for more financial aid in our state institutions,'” he said. “I think that definitely puts some pressure on Governor Daugaard.”