State Highlights

WICHE and South Dakota

Partnering for Over Twenty-Five Years
Year joined: 


► Thousands of students from South Dakota have attended undergraduate and graduate programs in other Western states through WICHE’s Student Exchange Program, saving millions of dollars, thanks to reduced tuition rates. In just one of the programs, the Western Undergraduate Exchange, South Dakota students and their families have saved nearly $80.5 million since 1989, when they started using the program. 

► South Dakota has received funding to be part of numerous WICHE policy initiatives, including those focused on financing and financial aid, workforce policy, and other areas.

► South Dakota has participated in WICHE initiatives related to distance education, workforce development, and behavioral health.

Return on Investment.

► In 2016-17 South Dakota, its institutions, and its students saved or brought in over $4.3 million through WICHE and spent $145,000 for membership in the commission, yielding a 30-fold return on investment.

► In the last 5 years, South Dakota students’ savings from WUE alone total more than $17.6 million, yielding a 26-fold return on the state’s investment in WICHE.

Student Savings
Student Savings WUE: 
Student Savings WRGP: 
Student Savings Total: 

Programs and Participation.

South Dakota is active in two of the three WICHE Student Exchange Programs: the Western Undergraduate Exchange and the Western Regional Graduate Program. In 2016-17 South Dakota’s students and families saved over $4.3 million. South Dakota saved money, too, through not having to establish and maintain costly programs in a number of areas, including some in healthcare.

Western Undergraduate Exchange. South Dakota students have enrolled in undergraduate programs beyond South Dakota’s borders through the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) since 1989. In 2016-17, 506 students from South Dakota are enrolled in out-of-state programs at reduced rates (150 percent of resident tuition), saving $3.8 million in tuition and fees – the average student savings amounted to $7,647. In the last 10 years, students have saved $36.4 million.

South Dakota benefits from WUE in another way: by receiving students from out of state. South Dakota’s institutions can choose how many out-of-state slots to offer and in which areas, allowing them to make the best use of their resources by accepting students in underenrolled programs. There’s a workforce benefit for the state, too, as students often stay in South Dakota after graduating. In 2016-17 South Dakota received 1,806 students through WUE.

Western Regional Graduate Program. South Dakota’s postgraduates also participate in graduate programs through the Western Regional Graduate Program (WRGP), which offers access to more than 400 high-quality, distinctive programs (“distinctive” meaning they’re offered at only four or fewer institutions in the WICHE region) at 59 institutions in all WICHE states. WRGP programs run the gamut, but emerging social, environmental, and resource-management fields are particular strengths, as are innovative interdisciplinary programs. In 2016-17 South Dakota sent 29 students to out-of-state institutions, while receiving 10.

Interstate Passport is a program that facilitates block transfer of lower-division general education based on learning outcomes and proficiency criteria. It includes learning outcomes for nine knowledge and skill areas developed by faculty at institutions in multiple states as well as an academic progress tracking system for Passport transfer students designed by registrars and institutional researchers. The goal of the Interstate Passport is to eliminate transfer students’ unnecessary repetition of learning previously achieved.  

WICHE’s Added Value.

South Dakota gains added value from WICHE’s programs in policy, workforce development, technology, mental health, and other areas.

One of WICHE’s most widely known publications is the Knocking at the College Door: Projections of High School Graduates series, which for almost 40 years has provided strategic data about how high school graduates are likely to change in the years ahead. The 9th edition of Knocking at the College Door, released in December 2016, describes how the nation has entered a decade of stabilization in the number of high school graduates, with substantial contraction in the number of White high school graduates and rapid increases of non-White populations. After about 2025, the nation and most states will produce fewer high school graduates than in recent years, due to a recent “baby bust”. The WICHE region will generally track the national trend, but it will be less impacted by the contraction of White youth and more influenced by a projected 20 percent increase of Hispanic high school graduates through 2024 and then decrease by about the same amount between 2025 and 2032.

There is an abundance of information on, including the publication and other reports, projections data, interactive data dashboards, recorded webinars and presentations, and South Dakota’s state profile, which indicates that:

·         South Dakota is projected to produce 9,200 high school graduates per year, on average, between school years 2012 and 2032, reflecting moderate growth through 2025 – about 13% more graduates – and then a relatively stable number of graduates from 2025 to 2032.

·         Non-White public high school graduates are currently about 14% of all of South Dakota’s public high school graduates and will increase to 26% of the total by 2032. 

Policy & Workforce Development.

South Dakota has participated in projects supporting better-informed decision making at the state level. WICHE initiatives have been sponsored by the Ford Foundation, Lumina Foundation for Education, the U.S. Department of Education, and others. In addition, WICHE policy experts often visit the state to present or consult on a number of vital issues, including the state’s workforce needs and balancing the financial aid portfolio between grants, loans, and scholarships, as well as between merit- and need-based aid. South Dakota decision makers also keep current on pressing policy issues developing all over the nation through WICHE’s extensive network.

The Adult College Completion (ACC) Network, funded by Lumina Foundation, was an 800-member learning network that united organizations and agencies working to increase college completion by adults with prior college credits but no degree. Activities included an annual workshop, a webinar series, publications, a listserv, and other resources. The ACC Network and WICHE became national leaders in the area of adult learners and continue to be an important resource to those who strive to better serve non-traditional students.

The State Higher Education Policy Database (SHEPD) is WICHE’s online searchable database. It provides state and national policymakers, education leaders, practitioners, and education consumers with an inventory of state-level policies and resources in key policy issue areas related to access and success in higher education. It contains a blog and an electronic SHEPD alert distribution list to keep subscribers current on important updates. A related resource is the Policy Publications Clearinghouse, a depository of publications, reports, and briefs related to higher education.  

Additionally, Black Hills State University, Dakota State University, Northern State University, the South Dakota State Board of Regents, and South Dakota University are members of the Western Academic Leadership Forum (the Forum), the chief academic leaders of the four-year institutions and their related system and state agencies, who address regional higher education issues and engage in resource sharing.  Another WICHE initiative, the Western Alliance for Community College Academic Leaders (the Alliance), brings academic leaders of community colleges and technical schools and systems together with state governing and coordinating boards associated with two-year institutions to exchange ideas and information, share resources and expertise, and collaborate on regional initiatives. Lake Area Technical Institute, Mitchell Technical Institute, South Dakota Department of Education, Southeast Technical Institute, and Western Dakota Technical Institute are members.


Several South Dakota colleges and universities are active participants in the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET), the leader in the practice, policy, and advocacy of technology-enhanced learning in higher education. WCET is widely recognized as an informative, reliable, and forward-thinking organization regarding the role of technology and innovation in higher education, and includes more than 350 institutions, state and systemwide higher education agencies, nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and corporations in nearly all U.S. states and many Canadian provinces. WCET members have access to trusted information on emerging trends, policies, and exemplars of successful learning technology innovation in practice. Key WCET activities include an annual meeting, leadership summits, national webcasts, the popular Frontiers blog, issue briefs, and email list-based discussions among members. Major topics of interest to the WCET membership include student and faculty success, the Internet of Things, managing e-learning, emerging technologies, broadband and learning innovation, and evolving policy issues..

Mental Health.

WICHE is very active supporting the South Dakota behavioral health system, both at the community level and at the state inpatient hospital. WICHE is engaged in supporting the annual consumer survey to assist the state in understanding the impressions of those they serve. Additionally, WICHE is engaged in supporting other program evaluation activities for the Division of Behavioral Health. Beginning late in FY15 and ongoing into FY16, WICHE is conducting a treatment needs study of the state’s Drug Courts for the Department of Judicial Services. In FY16, WICHE will continue to support program evaluation, and additionally begin a focused review of the state’s six IMPACT Programs (Assertive Community Treatment) and their fidelity to evidence-based standards of care. WICHE is also consulting for the state hospital about techniques to reduce seclusion and restraint and to improve direct-care staff scheduling and treatment programming. Finally, during a transition of leadership at the state psychiatric hospital (HSC-Yankton) we will provide support and mentoring to interim leadership.

State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA). SARA is a voluntary, nationwide initiative of states that will make distance education courses more accessible to students across state lines and make it easier for states to regulate and institutions to participate in interstate distance education. The effort initially was funded by $3.2 million in grants from Lumina Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and is now supported by fees paid by institutions. The initiative is administered by the country’s four regional higher education compacts – the Midwestern Higher Education Compact (MHEC), the New England Board of Higher Education (NEBHE), the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) and the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) – and overseen by The National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA). States and institutions that choose to participate agree to operate under common standards and procedures, providing a more uniform and less costly regulatory environment for institutions, more focused oversight responsibilities for states and better resolution of student complaints. South Dakota is among the WICHE states that are members of W-SARA in this reciprocal relationship.


Former Commissioners.

Jack Warner, executive director, South Dakota Board of Regents; Robert (Tad) T. Perry, representative, South Dakota House of Representatives; Charles Ruch (WICHE chair, 2003), former president, South Dakota School of Mines and Technology; David Gienapp, Third Circuit Court judge; Howell Todd, former president, Mississippi College; Michel Hillman, vice chancellor of academic affairs, North Dakota University System, and former director of academic affairs for the South Dakota Board of Regents.