Lake Area Technical Institute, recipient of the national Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, and South Dakota State University, South Dakota’s 1862 land-grant university, are pleased to co-announce the Opening Doors Initiative. The initiative is a commitment to expand access to higher education for all South Dakotans by simplifying the transfer process, offering education through innovative delivery methods, and providing a support system for student success.
The two entities have had a long-standing agreement for general education course transfer and articulation of other courses but have been working together for the past year to develop cross-articulation agreements unlike anything the state has ever seen between two public entities of higher education. The Opening Doors Initiative will allow students to seamlessly move between the colleges to obtain their desired level of education and skills training while minimizing credit loss that often occurs during the transfer process.
Lake Area Tech President Mike Cartney explained, “Both institutions see college as a pathway, not a destination. But before people take the pathway, we have to open the doors to college entrance, and sequentially the doors to careers, career advancement and lifelong learning. In many cases, people are not even aware that these doors exist. The Opening Doors Initiative is not only about opening those doors, but it’s also about making people aware of the opportunities that exist and giving them the confidence they can do it.”
Opening Doors is a broad effort by Lake Area Tech and SDSU that encourages higher education, industry and governmental entities to work together to open doors for all South Dakotans. The two colleges are leading the way by building student confidence through language support, proactive enrollment, public awareness of the value of college, the return on investment, and by making college relevant. One way is by offering dual-enrolled programs of study that give 100 percent credit to students for selected programs taken at the two institutions. The initiative helps merge South Dakotans’ occupational and educational careers by graduating lifelong learners, recognizing the educational merit of on-the-job experiences and training, developing apprenticeship programs, and recognizing that some things cannot be learned “on-the-job.”
“The South Dakota Board of Regents developed a goal of educating 65 percent of our citizens by achieving a postsecondary credential—either a diploma or degree. The motivation fits perfectly with the initiative we have been working on together,” SDSU President Barry Dunn said.
Opening Doors has allowed both colleges to look beyond traditional articulation agreements and develop a highly valuable pathway to lifelong learning. Dunn added, “Society extends far beyond an individual having a degree, it’s about bettering humanity—it’s about opening doors for people.”