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 $76.7 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 2015-16 South Dakota, its institutions, and its students saved or brought in over $4 million through WICHE and spent $141,000 for membership in the commission, yielding a 29-fold return on investment.

► In the last 5 years, South Dakota students’ savings from WUE alone total more than $17.2 million, yielding a 26-fold return on the state’s investment in WICHE.

Student Savings WUE: 

Programs and Participation.

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.

South Dakota is active in two of the three WICHE Student Exchange Programs: the Western Undergraduate Exchange and the Western Regional Graduate Program. In 2015-16 South Dakota’s students and families saved over $4 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 2015-16, 514 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 $7,313. In the last 10 years, students have saved $36.7 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 2015-16 South Dakota received 1,469 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 380 high-quality, distinctive programs (“distinctive” meaning they’re offered at only four or fewer institutions in the WICHE region) at 60 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 2015-16 South Dakota sent 23 students to out-of-state institutions, while receiving six.

The Interstate Passport is an outcomes-based framework for block transfer of lower division general education. Developed by faculty, registrars, institutional researchers, and academic advisors at two- and four-year institutions in seven states (California, Hawaii, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming), the framework addresses barriers to degree completion posed by uneven transfer policies and practices across states. Institutions in four other WICHE states (Colorado, Idaho, Montana, and New Mexico) and additional states outside the region are involved in its Phase III expansion and scaling efforts to build a nationwide infrastructure supporting friction-free transfer for Passport students. By earning a Passport, students who transfer to another Passport institution will have their learning recognized regardless of differences in course titles and credits, and will not be required to repeat courses to meet general education requirements.  

WICHE’s Added Value.

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

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 implementation of the Common Core Standards (CCSS) or other similar academic standards is well underway in most states, and the corresponding assessment systems went live this academic year. As implementation continues, there are a variety of challenges that K-12 and higher education leaders will face in the coming years related to student movement across state lines. To begin the conversation about these challenges, WICHE, with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, convened higher education and K-12 leaders from the Western region and additional bordering states in October 2014. South Dakota was one of 17 states along with the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands to participate.

The Adult College Completion (ACC) Network, funded by Lumina Foundation, is a 750-member learning network that unites organizations and agencies working to increase college completion by adults with prior college credits but no degree. Activities include an annual workshop, a webinar series, publications, a listserv, and other resources. The ACC Network and WICHE have become 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), whose members 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 Technic al 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 one of the most informative, reliable, and forward-thinking organizations regarding the role of technology and innovation in higher education. Our growing membership includes more than 350 institutions, state and system-wide higher education agencies, nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and corporations in nearly all U.S. states and many Canadian provinces. WCET member institutions actively serve more than 4 million college students taking all or part of their academic programs via technology. 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, and email list-based discussions among members. Major topics of interest to the WCET membership include student success, faculty success, managing e-learning, emerging technologies 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.


Former commissioners: 

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.

Student Savings WRGP: 
Student Savings Total: