$50M gift kickstarts new needs-based S.D. scholarship

Courtesy photo: An audience in Sioux Falls applauds the Wednesday announcement of a $50 million gift to establish a needs-based scholarship in South Dakota.

SIOUX FALLS – A $50 million gift to establish a needs-based scholarship in South Dakota was announced by First Premier Bank, Premier Bankcard and T. Denny Sanford on Wednesday. 

The $50 million gift is just the start of what will be a $200 million endowment to fund future needs-based scholarships in perpetuity.  

South Dakota is the only state in the country that does not offer needs-based scholarships to public or private universities. 

Initially, the Premier Scholarship will be awarded to eligible students at each of the six public universities – South Dakota State University, University of South Dakota, Dakota State University, Black Hills State University, Northern State University and the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology – along with Augustana University and the University of Sioux Falls. 

The amount of money available to each university will be pro-rated based upon each school’s enrollment, with allocations ranging between $200,000 to $1.25 million per school. 

“Today’s announcement is historic for South Dakota and will help us retain talented young people in our state for generations,” Gov. Kristi Noem said Wednesday. “We’ve identified the need for this type of scholarship for years, and I’m asking the Legislature to match this incredibly generous gift so that we can continue to make South Dakota stronger for our kids and grandkids.”

“The Premier Scholarship Fund will not only change the landscape of South Dakota’s higher education, but it will provide a real, lasting impact for students who couldn’t afford to go to college otherwise,” said Miles Beacom, CEO of Premier Bankcard. “Premier is passionate about providing educational opportunities that keep talented individuals in our state, and it’s time to make this happen.”

In exchange for their Premier Scholarship, recipients will be required to work in South Dakota for three years following graduation. Students qualify for the scholarship based on a formula that takes the cost of attendance (tuition, fees, room/board, books, etc.) less the family income and expected contribution to determine financial need. 

Premier is hopeful this announcement will encourage South Dakota lawmakers, area businesses and local philanthropists to step up and help provide the additional funding.

“While this is a historic announcement for education, it shouldn’t overshadow the very real impact that the Build Dakota Scholarship is having in our state every day,” First Premier Bank CEO Dana Dykhouse said. “The Build Dakota Scholarship has allowed us to see firsthand how successful a program can be when you create the right partnerships between the private sector, education institutions and governments. It’s why we recently announced another investment in Build Dakota and why we modeled the Premier Scholarship Fund in the same fashion.”

The Build Dakota Scholarship Fund was established in 2015 and has allowed 1,900 students the opportunity to graduate debt-free and enter the workforce in high-need industries in South Dakota. The scholarship was created to help solve the state’s workforce shortage by attracting and retaining tech school graduates. With an initial contribution of $50 million, the program offers full-ride scholarships for students who seek a degree in high-need fields. 

In addition to the Premier Scholarship Fund announcement, Dykhouse announced an additional $20 million donation for the Build Dakota Scholarship from the Premier organization and the State of South Dakota.

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