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Framing IMPACT 2018

Students walking through the University Student Union

IMPACT 2018: A Strategic Vision for South Dakota State University is the five-year strategic plan that will enhance the future of South Dakota citizens while supporting positive change and meeting the challenges of a global, complex and interconnected society. In simple terms, it describes how SDSU will be a gateway to opportunity and the future for many.

The 14-month process to develop IMPACT 2018 began with university leadership scheduling listening and dialogue sessions across the state and on campus; campuswide conversations took place with colleges, departments and other units; and engagement occurred with national leaders in higher education. 

It quickly became clear that the plan's success would emerge from a practical set of choices university leadership would make goals that would follow, allowing them to respond to key challenges and embrace opportunities with a clear vision of the future. Milestones were established and achievements would be weighed against a variety of standardized national surveys, peer benchmarking, program-specific data sources, and internal metrics and surveys to chart progress. 

An administrative retreat in June 2013 focused on identifying long-term challenges and opportunities that may emerge during implementation of IMPACT 2018. Anticipating and planning for these will allow the institution to be proactive and maximize opportunities while managing challenges.

Educationomics at SDSU
Decision-making while considering distinct, but related factors
Challenges and Opportunities


Jon McGee, vice president for planning and public affairs at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University in Minnesota, facilitated a one-day retreat for SDSU leadership and deans in June 2013. The author of the forthcoming Educationomics, McGee provided a summary of the broad forces of disruption and change influencing higher education on a national level. His definition of Educationomics is "the interaction and oversight of mission, market, and management in the context of economic, demographic, and cultural change."

According to McGee, today's climate presents significant challenges to higher education. The demand for college-educated students is at an all-time high, with 68 percent of all high school graduates attending a college or university within a year of graduation, up from 58 percent a generation ago (Source: USDE, NCES).

The volatility for admission is greater than ever, as shown by 50 percent of high school graduates applying to at least five colleges or universities, compared to 24 percent doing so in 1990 (Source: UCLA, HERI).

Because public policy is a driving force in determining the value, affordability and price of attending a college or university and ultimately obtaining a degree, colleges and universities must be in alignment with public policy by articulating their mission, managing their resources and having clear understandings of the student market. This alignment will provide clear expectations to students and their families and will ultimately define their ability to pay. 

McGee's Educationomics describes three "forces of disruption" in today's environment. These include current and projected demographics of high school students, the continual challenge of economics and the cultural environment in which education is regulated, delivered and perceived.

  1. Demographics:

    Over the course of the next eight years, it is projected that nationally the number of high school graduates will experience a decline. In the Midwest, this decline is projected to be around 6 percent (Source: WICHE). The only increase in high school graduates is projected for the Southeast area of the United States where high school graduates are expected to increase by 3 percent. The reality of the situation is that in 2012, 54 percent of entering freshmen attended a college or university within 100 miles of their home.

    Another 32 percent stayed within a 100 to 500 mile range of home. Another significant shift in demographics is expected in the area of race and its economics within. In 2010, 61 percent of high school graduates in the United States were white (Source: WICHIE). By 2020, that number is expected to decrease to 55 percent. The greatest increase will be in the number of Hispanic graduates, increasing from 17 percent in 2010 to a projected 23 percent in 2020.

    Economics of this shift could have a major impact on higher education. Currently the highest median income of families with children between the ages of 6 and 17 is with White and Asian families, both with average median incomes over $75,000. Black and Hispanic families' median income average just more than $38,000 and $40,000, respectively.

  2. Economics:

    Since 2000, the average family income for those making $100,000 a year or less has decreased (Source: U.S. Census Bureau). Families with one or more child under the age of 18 have experienced, on average, a decrease of approximately $10,000 during that time. Additionally, a survey by the Federal Reserve Board determined that only four in 10 American families in that category indicated they regularly add to their savings account.

    Those factors, combined with rising tuition costs, are putting a squeeze on families with children who want to attend college, particularly among those with the lowest incomes. In 2000, the cost of attending a public four-year institution for families in the lowest income quintile averaged slightly more than half of their annual family income. By 2011, that percentage had increased to more than 100 percent of annual family income. Families in the next quintile experienced an increase from about 25 percent of their annual family income in 2004 to an average of around 40 percent in 2011. (Source: U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Department of Education).

    This increasing financial pressure has forced students to rely more on other sources of revenue to pay for college. According to the U.S. Department of Education, 82 percent of students at public four-year institutions in 2009-10 received financial aid, while 50 percent of the students borrowed money from other sources. In addition, 67 percent of students received grants or scholarships.

  3. Cultural:

    McGee refers to the "cultural balance of higher education" as maintaining the ability to sustain quality and value in a complex and changing environment. Institutions must continue to evaluate and adjust how they deliver instruction to students, balancing the need for new and creative learning methods and changing technology. Colleges and universities with residential campuses must also compete with an assortment of other post-secondary degree options like on-line academies and institutes, for-profit universities and the increasing number of massive open online coursed, or MOOCs.

    Externally, college and universities have to balance and even compete within their own system of regulation and state governance in a climate that has seen a decrease in public support for higher education.

McGee says navigating and overcoming each disruption is critical for universities and colleges to survive. Successful institutions find the balance between accessibility, affordability, accountability and sustainability.

Educationomics at South Dakota State University

Part of McGee's discussion of Educationomics included the opportunity to correlate issues facing higher education at the national level with those at South Dakota State University. The decline in state support continues to drive tuition and fees higher in South Dakota, creating limits on access for lower-income students. In the past 13 years, state support in South Dakota has declined from 57 percent of the total cost being supported by the state to 38 percent (Source: Board of Regents). Mandatory tuition and fees at South Dakota State in the last five years have risen from $5,373 to $7,713 per year.

A report by the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association showed that in its region, South Dakota ranked only ahead of Montana in state appropriations per FTE for public postsecondary education, ranking behind Iowa, Minnesota, Idaho, Nebraska, North Dakota and Wyoming. State-funded student aid programs in South Dakota ranked no better, with estimated grant dollars per FTE being just less than $100 (Source: NASSGACP). Minnesota ranked first, with grant dollars per FTE of almost $500. Montana, Nebraska, Iowa and North Dakota also ranked higher than South Dakota. 

McGee says operating a university is like operating a business: There are basic costs associated with daily operations. In South Dakota, state policy requires that tuition and fees paid by students cover base operation costs of the university. The South Dakota Board of Regents determined that a standard 3 percent annual raise in salary policy for faculty and staff, combined with a 2.95 percent yearly inflation on the cost of doing business, will result in a minimum 5 percent increase to tuition and fees. 

A positive indicator for SDSU is a projected increase of as much as 5 percent in the number of state high school graduates between now and 2020. In this region, Nebraska is also projecting a slight increase, while Minnesota, Iowa and Missouri are projected to decrease between 5 to 15 percent during the same period. North Dakota is projected to decrease less than 5 percent.

Recent U.S. Census Bureau data shows the median household income in South Dakota at a bit more than $48,000, slightly less than the $52,762 national average. The average median income for Sioux Falls, South Dakota's largest city, is more in line with national average at $51,831. Lincoln County, which includes part of Sioux Falls, is one of South Dakota wealthiest counties, showing a median average income of $70,043. 

In fall 2012, 32 percent of the students at South Dakota State University received Pell grants, compared to 23 percent at Iowa State University, 22 percent at North Dakota State University, 20 percent at the University of Minnesota and 22 percent at the University of Nebraska. South Dakota State ranked highest among regional land-grant institutions in percent of students receiving state aid, institutional aid and additional loans. Those students receiving state aid, on average, received 30 percent less than the next lowest institution, while 74 percent of students at SDSU secured outside loans. 

Decision-making while considering distinct, but related factors

According to McGee, market-related choices for South Dakota State University comprise three distinct, but related factors: enrollment size, enrollment profile and educational profile/identity. These provide a framework for making strategic enrollment, programmatic and financial choices within IMPACT 2018.

  1. All institutions have three basic enrollment choices: enroll more students, enroll fewer students or maintain the same number of students. SDSU has chosen the first option, with a goal of enrolling and retaining more students and increasing the graduation rate.
  2. Institutions may also expand upon their enrollment profiles, refine their enrollment profiles or maintain their current enrollment profiles. Within IMPACT 2018, SDSU has set clear goals for reshaping its enrollment profile to attract more engaged learners and enroll more students from underrepresented groups.
  3. "Educational identity" represents the institution's mission, curricular and co-curricular commitments. The choice is whether to maintain those as they are or change to something different. IMPACT 2018 sets out a plan to adapt SDSU's land-grant mission to meet current and future challenges, by building strategically in areas of SDSU's traditional strengths.

These distinct, but related factors require simultaneous consideration, since a decision about one necessarily will affect the others. For example, a decision to increase enrollment requires choices on profile and identity. Those choices then carry management implications that bring the market and mission dimensions together. These include: 

  • Program requirements: Does South Dakota State have the curricular and co-curricular programs and administrative infrastructure in place to insure success? Programs and activities provided cannot be constructed independent of the needs, interests and demands of the market.
  • Recruitment requirements: Is a recruitment strategy and infrastructure in place to support the enrollment goal? Recruitment strategy includes assessment of current student markets, capacity for new market development and recruitment support. It also includes and assessment of financial aid strategy and support.
  • Market position: Is South Dakota State's institutional brand appropriately positioned and understood to support the goal? This is not about taglines or billboards. Rather, it requires an assessment of how the college or university is understood in the marketplace and whether the choice or change requires the institution to change perceptions and market position.
  • Financial requirements: Are the goals of IMPACT 2018 financially sustainable?

Challenges and Opportunities

The following were identified as the most significant challenges and opportunities that most likely will be a reality during the implementation of IMPACT 2018:


  • Branding, and the ability to differentiate South Dakota State on local, regional and national levels;
  • Understanding and adjusting to cultural and demographic shifts in enrollment;
  • Overcoming constraints that impact faculty and staff workforce growth and building an infrastructure for professional development for all staff;
  • Achieving financial sustainability, and
  • Managing regulation.


  • Enrollment growth by attracting a new demographic of students;
  • Stabilization of the current student market, while expanding into new markets;
  • Strategic partnerships and collaborations;
  • Efficient and effective use of resources through strategic restructuring, and
  • Continuing development of the South Dakota State University brand.

Identifying and meeting a set of challenges and opportunities is achieved by understanding the university's identity. Each group at the retreat was asked to envision the future and identify how choices will need to be made in order to address the challenges and opportunities they had identified: How will South Dakota State University need to work differently by 2018 if it is to achieve the goals articulated in IMPACT 2018.

Several institutional themes emerged, including:

  • Ramp up development of strong academic programs that are perceived as "sought-after," competitive degree programs and prepare students for careers, and that provide well-rounded educational opportunities.
  • Make the university an "opportunity engine" by offering greater access to education and extending institutional reach to support economic development.
  • Be an exemplar of a high-performing land-grant university, one that supports employers, communities and students through strategic relationships and partners.
  • Be a forward-looking, aspirational institution that exceeds expectations.
  • Be known as an innovating, cutting-edge, entrepreneurial institution
  • Maintain a reputation for high integrity and trustworthiness, as an institution considered a destination for the best and brightest students in South Dakota.
  • Achieve student success on multiple levels, as a student-centered institution.

IMPACT 2018 has been widely discussed for more than a year-and-a-half. It has become a critical part of the thinking and planning across the institution. It is no surprise that the themes noted above are also integrated into the goals enunciated in the strategic plan. The challenges and the opportunities are well-known and understood by a university community that has committed itself to achieving the objectives of IMPACT 2018, and in doing so reveal further opportunities to enhance the collective future of South Dakota's citizens.