Share story

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Data from a student research organization says a growing number of high school graduates in a southeast South Dakota city didn’t enroll in college in the two years after earning their diploma.

More than a third of Sioux Falls graduates in 2015 didn’t enroll in college, up from a quarter of graduates in 2009, according to the National Student Clearinghouse.

The decline is “eye-opening,” said Kate Parker, president of the Sioux Falls School District school board.

“It’s nothing we can ignore,” she said.

The college enrollment decline runs counter to statewide goals aimed at preparing for a future in which more of the state’s jobs require credentials beyond a high school diploma, the Argus Leader reported .

It’s unclear what may be causing the decline. National trends show that college enrollment rises during difficult economic times and falls as markets improve. Sioux City had a 2.5 percent unemployment rate in 2016, a sharp decline in the rate five years prior. College tuition has also increased since 2009, which may further motivate students to go directly into the workforce.

“I think we have a number of folks in the trades that wouldn’t mind hiring our kids right out of high school,” Superintendent Brian Maher said.

The Sioux Falls School District aims to ensure kids are college and career ready.

“We want every student to be prepared, and then if they choose to go (to college) or not go, it’s a personal decision,” Maher said.

The district doesn’t set specific targets for the number of graduates who go on to college, Maher said.

“I know college isn’t for everyone,” said Cynthia Mickelson, a Sioux Falls school board member. “But I think we can do better.”

The statewide percentage of students going to college has remained at around 33 percent for the past five years.


Information from: Argus Leader,