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With dreams of the future, graduates should look to South Dakota schools

AT ISSUE: A recent blog on the web site of that newspaper in that town near Harrisburg reminded me of a column I try to write about this time most years. That blog wrote, "It's a shame that most high school and college advisors don't inform students of the job potentials for the career paths they choose." The column I write about this time most years is choosing a college in South Dakota. They can prepare our graduating seniors as well as any college or university in the country for wherever their career paths may go.

FOR MANY South Dakota high school graduates, the week of commencement is the toughest time of their lives. It means major decisions about their futures. Most of our young people have had their graduations for this year. The security of their high schools and in many instances, their parents, will soon be left behind.

Of course there was the excitement, the parties and the farewells of the school year. Saying goodbye is always a hard thing to do. But commencement is the doorway into the future. It also means the beginning...the beginning of these young people's futures, whatever they may be. They may be loaded with responsibility or they may not...that decision lies on the shoulders of each of these graduates individually.

IN MOST CASES, the immediate future means a summer of fun or work and then college. At least that is what is seen by most graduates as more than 50 percent of them have put college at the top of their lists come fall.

But college is only another door into the future. There are others. Alternative post high school education programs, joining the work force immediately or choosing a military service...for a few years or for a career are some of the many options out there.

In the minds of many, plans for college are already in concrete. College is generally the dream of both our graduates and their parents.

"My kid is going to college because I didn't have a chance to go," is reverberated time and time again by parents.

THE EXPERIENCES one receives attending college, good or bad, can last a lifetime. But there are a couple of things that should be noted here as well. First, it should be recognized that, nationally, three out of four who begin college don't stay long enough to earn their degrees. Secondly, only about 20 percent of the jobs out there today require a four-year degree.

With the expense of a four, or perhaps I should say five-year college education, one might consider one of the other options for his or her immediate future.

One of those options, and an excellent one, is consider technical training. And one of the best places to receive that training is right here in Watertown at the Lake Area Technical Institute. Or if the course offering isn't here, take a look at one of the other three public tech schools in South Dakota.

HOWEVER, IF IT'S college and nothing but college, we suspect many of the graduating seniors this spring have already made up their minds...for whatever reason. But it is not too late to change your mind. Too often a particular college is chosen because a boy friend or a girl friend has already picked the college of his or her choice, or a close friend is or will be going to "that" college, or it's a good party school.

But there are better reasons for choosing a college. They need to be explored further. And this summer will be a good time to do just that.

A number of seniors have chosen an out-of-state college to spend their next few years. However, is this the wisest choice for them? We don't think so. We appreciate the desire for many of these students wanting to "get out of town" for a while. But the cost of many of these schools will put an unfair burden on their parents.

One of South Dakota's universities has a motto, "You can go anywhere from here." This rings true with all of our in-state universities and even our tech schools. The big problem for our graduating seniors is they are instead putting this motto in their selections for their higher education as well. But there is still time to rethink those decisions. That "going anywhere" could be right here in South Dakota....


Gordon Garnos was long-time editor of the Watertown Public Opinion and recently retired after 39 years with that newspaper.  Garnos, a lifelong resident of South Dakota except for his military service in the U.S. Air Force, was born and raised in Presho.


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