Lakota Country Times: Tribal college impacts the economy

A graduation ceremony at Oglala Lakota College on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Photo from American Indian College Fund / Facebook

Oglala Lakota College stirs region’s economy
By Brandon Ecoffey
Lakota Country Times Editor

KYLE— Oglala Lakota College has been providing benefits to both the Native and non-Native community in western South Dakota for decades. A new report just released by the college puts in to perspective just how large of a positive impact that the college has on the region.

In a press release Monday, Thomas Shortbull, Oglala Lakota College President, and Newton Cummings, OLC Board President announced the results of the Analysis of the Economic Impact & Return on Investment of Education at Oglala Lakota College.

The report commissioned by OLC and conducted by Economic Modeling Specialists International showed a number of positives for the college and its students including an annual contribution from the college to the region of $58.8 million dollars.

“Oglala Lakota College creates value in many ways. The college plays a key role in helping students increase their employability and achieve their individual potential. It provides students with the skills they need to have a fulfilling and prosperous career,” said the report.

The study that was designed to “investigate the economic impacts created by OLC on the community and the benefits that the college generates in return for the investments made by key stake holders” found that the college has provided a significant economic contribution to not only reservation communities but to the entire region.

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The study looked at the impacts of the college on four counties including Oglala Lakota, Bennett, Jackson, and Ziebach and found that the schools contribution of $58.8 GRP to the region was greater than that of the arts, entertainment, and recreational industries in the area during the fiscal year 2013-2014.

Although there has been a push back from conservatives lawmakers on the efficacy of community colleges and on providing funding for tribal colleges, the report shows that taxpayers are receiving their fair share of return on their investment into OLC.

According to the report taxpayers saw $27.6 million of their hard earned dollars go in to OLC over the course of the study, as a result these investors have benefited by seeing almost an 80% return on their investment. The returns can be seen in everything from tax revenue collected from higher career earnings of OLC graduates, higher profits for employers who benefit from productivity increases by employees.

Furthermore taxpayers have seen savings generated by the improvement of quality of life of graduates, their families, and their communities. The acquisition of education, as pointed out in the study, has correlated with a decrease in needs of individuals to access social services and a declination in crime rates resulting in less money being spent on incarceration. As a result of OLC’s contribution to the region taxpayers in these counties now enjoy a $39.3 million net gain from the college.

The taxpayer is not the only class of citizen who has benefited from OLC’s work. Students at the college annually invest on average 3.8 million combined to cover tuition fees and supplies. These same students left roughly $12 million dollars on the table in potential had they opted to enter the work force instead of enrolling at OLC. As a result, these same students will acquire $40 million more individually throughout their life. This amount averages out to about 11.4% more income over the course of their careers.

(Contact Brandon Ecoffey at

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