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July 22, 2019
Things are moving in the right direction.
Maybe not as fast as Carmen Simone would like, but the leader of the newly renamed Community College for Sioux Falls at least has steady progress to report as the school prepares for a ribbon-cutting later this week.
Behind the symbolic gesture, though, is substance.
Simone and her team have spent the past several months working to recast the school with a newly focused mission: serving the hundreds of Sioux Falls-area students who don’t go on to post-secondary education after high school, especially those who would be first-generation college students.
Its associate of arts in general studies degree is now offered solely through USD, while the campus in northwest Sioux Falls continues to offer the same continuum of programs it has in the past: certificates through baccalaureate and graduate courses offered in Sioux Falls from DSU, SDSU and USD.
The USD associate degree “provides a comprehensive and cohesive base of knowledge for students, regardless of their program goals,” said Simone, who began her role early this year after serving as president of Trinidad State Junior College in Colorado.
Partnerships will be key, she said.
“We are focused on collaboration, which allows us to offer unique programs locally that highlight the strengths of our partner institutions,” she said.
“We are also focused on reaching new populations who, for a variety of reasons, have not traditionally sought post-secondary options but who could benefit from them. In addition, we are positioning ourselves to work closely with local businesses to provide new professional development opportunities to enhance our workforce.”
A newly formed Center for Advising and Student Engagement is bringing together admissions and advising professionals from USD, SDSU and DSU to create a collaborative environment for students regardless of program or school.
“Ultimately, we would like to further engage our faculty members with students in this space,” Simone said.
What the student numbers will bear out come fall term remains to be seen.
“Honestly, enrollment has been declining for several years now, and that trend was one of the driving reasons behind our recent changes,” Simone said. “Our goal, of course, is to stop the downward trend, but our slow transition this summer has not been helpful.”
Even with that, though, the college is half-way to its fall enrollment target, “and we are seeing student traffic increase as the fall term approaches,” she said. “Those are positive signs.”
Strengthening financial aid will be key, as will continued support from the business community, she said.
“The Board of Regents has a goal of attaining financial support for the students who are the most economically disadvantaged in our state,” Simone said.
The approach so far has been to bring together all sectors of higher education – public, private, technical and tribal – to support students equitably across institutions.
“Discussions have centered on setting criteria that will result in success for students,” she said. “We hope to see a final proposal come forward soon for future consideration by the Legislature.”
There will be multiple opportunities for businesses to connect with the Community College, Simone added.
The University Center community steering board has been shifted into a joint advisory council for the Community College for Sioux Falls, which includes representation from its higher education partners, the Legislature and the business community.
“In partnership with Southeast Tech, we are considering ways to support the business community together, including exploration of a Center for Workforce Opportunities concept,” she said. “We are implementing further support for local businesses through noncredit workforce education and professional development programming, which will debut this fall.”
The school also is seeking input from the business community to inform its strategic and business-planning efforts. Anyone interested should reach out, Simone said.
The ribbon-cutting is scheduled for 1 p.m. Wednesday at 4801 N. Career Ave.
“As we celebrate, we recognize that we owe a debt of gratitude to the Sioux Falls community for the support we’ve received over the years,” Simone said. “The business community, especially, gave us the courage to implement this grand vision, and without them we could not have achieved this goal.”
The newly named Community College of Sioux Falls holds a formal ribbon-cutting this week, but more has been happening behind the scenes to roll out its new mission.