#283. Higher Education is Development Engine

Posted on | The Agurban
The following is an article written by Terry D. Baloun, President of the South Dakota Board of Regents, that appeared on argusleader.com, June 3, 2010. We fully agree with Mr. Baloun’s assessment, that higher education will be a key driver to the future success and development of a state’s economy.
Higher Education is Development Engine
Higher education is all about improving our state’s quality of life by producing a highly skilled and educated work force. For this state to prosper, we must increase college participation rates and improve completions while paying particular attention to closing the achievement gaps for minority, low-income and first-generation college students. And we must do all of this while staying focused on efforts to keep our graduates in state by ensuring there are plenty of opportunities for graduate-level study and research that translate into new job opportunities in South Dakota.

Higher education is a work force development and economic development engine. Not everyone thinks of it that way, but there is little doubt that when we educate more South Dakotans, graduate more of them with college degrees and expand university-based research opportunities, we benefit the economic well-being of this state and its citizens.

The South Dakota Department of Labor projects that occupations requiring some type of post-secondary education in South Dakota will grow by almost 16 percent, generating more than 68,000 new job opportunities, in the decade ending in 2016. Likewise, the working environment for these new workers will be fast-paced and ever-changing.

Eighty-five percent of today’s jobs are classified as skilled, and 60 percent of future jobs will require training that only 20 percent of today’s workers possess. That’s where higher education comes in, as higher levels of education almost always translate into higher-wage occupations.

To help to bring those new jobs to South Dakota, record levels of university research are under way. Six university-based research centers are home to high-tech research and development. Some of this research already has translated into products or ideas that can be commercialized in the private sector. To date, a $21.5 million investment by the state in these centers has resulted in a $184 million economic impact to South Dakota, based on a conservative model.

Although the economic times are challenging, we cannot lose sight of where this state needs to go. At the public universities, we will continue to do everything possible to grow research initiatives and to encourage entrepreneurship, to support graduate education and to contribute to economic development through technology transfer and incubation of new commercial ventures.

To support work force development and South Dakota’s quality of life, we will pursue corporate training partnerships, off-campus and online programs and, above all, a strategic focus on quality academic programs – both new and existing – that meet South Dakota’s future work force needs.