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Scholarship offers freedom

October 24, 2022

Needs-based scholarships can make a difference for South Dakota students. 

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Jordyn Hall would not be in college if not for scholarships like the Freedom Scholarship

“I know I would not be in college if not for the scholarships and the people who believed in me and saw my potential,” said Jordyn Hall, a junior Cyber Operations major from Flandreau, S.D.

"As a first-generation college student, college felt like a foreign concept and something that was unattainable,” she said. When she reviewed college pricing, she was overwhelmingly disappointed, thinking she wouldn’t be able to fund her education.

But with scholarships like the South Dakota Freedom Scholarship, “I realized funding my education wouldn't be as impossible as I had thought.”

These “helped reduce the dread of seeing that semester bill for the first time and has greatly helped me focus more on my studies and less on my finances,” Hall said.

Transfer student Alexandra Smith said that because of the new South Dakota Freedom Scholarship, “I don’t have to worry about working so much.” She on-campus jobs as a resident assistant (RA) and as an Admissions Ambassador. She is also a double major, studying Artificial Intelligence and Math.

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For Alexandra Smith, the Freedom Scholarship means literal freedom.

South Dakota was the last state in the nation to offer a needs-based scholarship, said Amy Crissinger, Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management. While the idea had been discussed for many years, it took a public/private partnership to fund this type of scholarship, which helps meet a student’s financial need for their education.

Announced in 2021, the South Dakota Freedom Scholarship partnership brought together Sanford Health, First PREMIER Bank and PREMIER Bankcard, Avera, the State of South Dakota, T. Denny Sanford, and other private donors.

The group set an initial goal of $200 million for the endowed scholarship; on October 12, 2022, they announced a $50 million donation from First PREMIER Bank and PREMIER Bankcard, bringing the total endowment to $225 million.

This scholarship helps full-time, degree-seeking, undergraduate students, but it also helps the state, because the recipients then commit to working in South Dakota for three years, which builds a well-trained workforce for the state.

“Family means a lot to me,” said Hall, so “my educational plans involve staying close to my home in Flandreau.”

There are 11 universities participating this academic year, the state’s six public regental institutions, and private schools, including Augustana University, University of Sioux Falls, Mount Marty University, Dakota Wesleyan, and Presentation College.

Each institution was given some flexibility with distributing their portion, Crissinger said. DSU was given a total of $405,000, and currently has 129 students who have been offered Freedom Scholarship for 2022-23, at $3,000 a year to each student. She hopes that as awareness of the opportunity grows, so will the number of students taking advantage of the scholarship.

“This provides literal freedom and relief, to not worry about finances as much,” said Smith. “This is a huge thing for me.”

Funds are administered through the South Dakota Community Foundation. There are parameters that students must meet, including maintaining a 2.0 grade point average while enrolled, and graduating in five years or less. The details are available here.

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