The Joint Appropriations Committee met to get an update on Senate Bill 55, finalize on letters of intent, review the East and West River tours for the committee and hear public testimony.

The 2020 State Legislature passed SB55 directing the Board of Regents (BOR) to assemble a task force to examine “possible program and administrative efficiencies through the shared administration of the six universities. Legislation asked the task force to review:

• Possible combining of administration at all levels of operation withing institutions;

• Possible combining administration of program across multiple institutions;

• A review of duplication of program offerings;

• A review of the academic majors with low enrollments and low numbers of graduates;

• A review of functions outside the core missions of teaching, learning and research;

• A review of the operations and functions provided as an efficiency through the central office;

• A review of the viability of the university centers in Rapid City and Sioux Falls.

The task force was appointed in October 2020 consisting of three regents, three university presidents, nine citizen representatives and four legislators. Subcommittees were formed for Academics, Infrastructure/Ancillary and Administration.

The Academics Subcommittee has recommended to the BOR to conduct a program demand gap analysis. This study will review current academic majors at the undergraduate and graduate level with alignment with the workforce demands. The results of the study are expected to guide future policies and decisions related to academic program duplication where duplication is needed vs. unneeded. They are also seeking more information on the two West River nursing programs that operate in Rapid City (SDSU and USD). They are also reviewing BOR policies related to institutional missions as they related to program offerings. The intent is to more effectively define the academic programming priorities of each institution to internally regulate duplication.

The subcommittee is reviewing current BOR policies related to section size in order to improve the efficiency of coursework delivery. They also are reviewing current BOR policies related to program productivity. The recommendation is to identify new metrics for analyzing programs flagged as producing limited graduates. They are making recommendations related to increasing and improving advocacy of higher education, including broadening relationships with congressional and state officials, legislators, workforce/industry leaders, K-12 leaders, technical colleges and university home cities.

The Infrastructure/Ancillary Subcommittee is reviewing the operations of the university center locations in Sioux Falls and Rapid City. This review has included long-term financial viability, student demographics, alternate space use options, funding structures and other issues. This analysis will also include the impact and efficiency of maintaining two separate nursing programs as opposed to a single nursing program. The subcommittee is gathering comparative information from other system offices on staffing levels, office functions, and job descriptions. They also are reviewing options for efficiencies through streamline or system-wide food service contracts.

The subcommittee is reviewing how campuses utilize building space, measure building space usage, and use related data to make new construction and renovation decisions. The intent is to provide guidance on improved reporting for better informed recommendations on new buildings, building improvement and building taken offline.

They also are reviewing consultant information about potential energy/utility savings options on campuses, as well as potential incentives for campuses.

Finally, they are reviewing various state statutes and practices that have negative consequences for encouraging efficiency with the university system.

The Administrative Subcommittee is reviewing the funding differentiation between institutions as they have emerged over time through legislative decisions and BOR actions. They have met with university presidents to better understand the budget setting process for each institution as a prelude to potential related efficiency recommendations. They are reviewing potential efficiencies through increased shared services throughout the university system. They are working on methods for comparative analysis of administrative staffing on campuses to determine metrics for administrative costs at each institution. They are working on recommendations to keep efficiency discussions as an ongoing process after the SB 55 Task Force has completed their work. The subcommittee is working with campuses in close geographic proximity to each other on opportunities for shared services and personnel.

The recommendations from the subcommittees will be provided to the Legislature in final report from at the end of this year.  The irony is that these same topics have been studied and evaluated in the past with recommendations, with few enacted. This time, the intent is to act on those recommendations. The Joint Appropriations Committee with the Legislature is accountable and responsible for resource allocation of state dollars and oversight of those allocated resources to work with the BOR to sustain an affordable university system.

For questions/input, please contact Senator Jean Hunhoff 660-5619.

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