Si Tanka College Purchases Huron University

Aug 15th, 2001 | By | Category: 13-1: Honoring Our Students & Alumni, Tribal College News

Si Tanka College, a small tribal college in South Dakota, has purchased Huron University, a private university in the northeastern corner of the state. When the sale was finalized in May, officials from Si Tanka and Huron expressed their belief that the historic event will result in unprecedented opportunities for both institutions. Si Tanka College, which has nonprofit status as a 501(c) 3 organization, received a $6.6 million rural development loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to make the purchase. The two institutions operate under one 12-member board after five members from the Huron, SD, community were added to Si Tanka’s all-Indian board.

Si Tanka President T.O. Traversie said he sees several advantages for his institution (formerly known as Cheyenne River Community College). The college will soon begin offering junior and senior level courses on the reservation. The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe chartered its tribal college in 1973 (TCJ, Vol. 9, N.3). In the past 25 years, many local people have earned associate degrees and would like to continue their education. Because of their family and ranching responsibilities, they cannot relocate to go to a university, and it is a three-hour drive to commute to the nearest university.

Huron University Chancellor David O’Donnell said they plan to take many of their accredited courses to the Si Tanka campus, including criminal justice, teacher education, and computer science. Huron will provide the curriculum, syllabi, and lesson plans for the Si Tanka faculty. Later, the two institutions hope to share courses via satellite between the Huron and the Si Tanka campuses and also to offer classes in other reservation communities, Traversie said.

There is no immediate effect on Si Tanka’s accreditation from the North Central Association’s Commission on Institutions of Higher Education (NCA). O’Donnell and Traversie said they expect NCA to visit the two campuses in September to discuss how to speed up Si Tanka’s accreditation process now that the tribal college has the assistance of Huron, an accredited institution. NCA granted Si Tanka candidate status last year, recognizing its progress in meeting accreditation requirements. Normally it would take five to eight years for Si Tanka to become fully accredited.

Established in 1883, Huron University offered the first bachelor’s degree in Dakota Territory. Long a Presbyterian College, Huron University has gone through a number of ownership changes in the past decade. The Si Tanka purchase opens many new doors for funding. “Small schools all over the country are having difficulty in how to modernize,” said O’Donnell. “You can’t stand still for 20 years.” As a private, for profit school, Huron could not attract gifts from alumni and corporations. However, now it is part of a public, non-profit, Native American-owned institution, which is eligible for many more grants and gifts, he said. Last fall, Huron’s enrollment was 639 and Si Tanka’s was 323.

It is a natural partnership, O’Donnell believes. “A lot of our alumni have been Native American. We have always seen them as our constituency. We can improve together what we could not do individually,” he said.

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