VERMILLION, S.D. – Together with the Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce and its partner institutions, the University of South Dakota celebrated the launch of its new Community College for Sioux Falls, a new college dedicated to meeting the needs of underserved students in Sioux Falls and regional workforce demand.
The USD Community College for Sioux Falls replaces USD’s efforts in what was formerly known as University Center. The new college is led by Carmen Simone, Ph.D., who serves as vice president and dean, and is a collaborative partnership between USD, Dakota State University (DSU) and South Dakota State University (SDSU).
Strengthening USD’s commitment to serving Sioux Falls’ underserved students is a core priority for USD President Sheila K. Gestring, who has emphasized her vision of increasing access to postsecondary education. Rebranding, streamlining admissions and student support processes and adjusting enrollment strategies are key steps in better serving the students of Sioux Falls, Gestring said.
“By simplifying its messaging, rebranding and promoting targeted programs that have historical growth, the USD Community College for Sioux Falls is well-positioned to attract new students and start them on a pathway to higher education and a more successful future,” Gestring said.
South Dakota is one of a small number of states that does not offer a true community college option in public higher education. The new USD Community College for Sioux Falls is designed to fill the gap between the state’s four technical institutes and six public universities, reaching students who are not currently enrolled at a higher education institution but who demonstrate academic readiness. It will focus primarily on serving nontraditional or adult learners who are site-bound, English language learners or members of the workforce looking to acquire credentials to better prepare them for the local workforce.
USD will also serve Sioux Falls with credit-bearing certificates, noncredit workforce training, dual credit delivery to local schools and lifelong learning opportunities. SDSU and DSU will continue to offer complementary course offerings in the same facility that showcase their unique strengths, including programs like cybersecurity, web development and healthcare coding.
“It’s a community college – and more,” Simone said. “Community colleges are adept at reaching out to first-generation students and students that might be unsure if they are ready for a university experience. They help students find success and gain confidence and become really great students as they continue on their educational pathways.”
Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken says he views the Community College for Sioux Falls as a valuable way to serve Sioux Falls students who have a desire to continue their education close to home, but want to do it in a two-year setting or want to fast-track their career development in a different four-year degree setting.
“The Community College for Sioux Falls has realized that reaching kids who previously didn’t see higher education as an option is an untapped market in this region,” TenHaken said. “Seeing the number of kids who don’t pursue secondary education represents a huge opportunity for us to get them enrolled, educated and successfully integrated into our workforce. In addition to those opportunities, the Community College for Sioux Falls has an opportunity to make continued inroads with our immigrant populations to equip them with job-readiness skills.”
One degree option Simone is championing for students is the Associate of Arts in General Studies. This flexible two-year program allows students to get on a pathway, earn credits and work toward a bachelor’s degree in nearly any field at any institution in the U.S.
The other key program is the Bachelor of Science in Technical Leadership degree, which allows graduates of Southeast Technical Institute to build upon their technical degree and transform those credits into a bachelor’s degree as they grow in their career.
“The connection we have with the technical institutes is so unique and important,” Simone said. “The technical institutes that are present in South Dakota are fantastic institutions. They’re very focused on career training, and they’re good at what they do. We recognize that workforce development is a critical need here in Sioux Falls, so we want to help fill that role here. When a graduate of a technical program wants to become a manager and needs a baccalaureate degree, they shouldn’t have to start over. We want to serve these students in partnership with the technical institutes, so that we are working together to better the Sioux Falls community.”
For more information about the Community College for Sioux Falls and its degree options, visit usd.edu/siouxfalls.