First Premier Bank, Premier Bankcard, and T. Denny Sanford have pledged $50 million to establish a fund in support of need-based college scholarships at South Dakota universities, Sioux Falls Business reports.
Established at the South Dakota Community Foundation, the fund will provide need-based scholarships to eligible students attending one of the six public universities in the state, Augustana University, or the University of Sioux Falls. Each of the universities will receive an annual allocation ranging from $200,000 to $1.25 million from the fund, depending on its enrollment, to provide scholarships, starting with the 2022-23 school year. (Premier will contribute an additional $5 million for the first year of the program.) While scholarships will not be limited to residents of South Dakota, scholarship recipients will be required to work in the state for three years after graduation or pay their scholarship back as if it were a loan.
First Premier Bank CEO Dana Dykhouse said the bank and Sanford planned to double their contribution over the next few years, adding, "we're going to challenge the legislature and other philanthropists and other South Dakotans to do the same and put money into this fund." South Dakota governor Kristi Noem announced that she would ask the state legislature for a matching contribution of $50 million. The fund is modeled on the Build Dakota program, which was established in 2015 with a $25 million commitment from Sanford and offers full-ride scholarships to students pursuing a technical degree in a high-demand field.
"They can come from any other state, and we hope a lot do because we...have never had more job openings in South Dakota than we have today," said Dykhouse. "We need people, and hopefully this will attract young people to South Dakota. We know we're not going to save every young person, but we'll save as many as we can."