Sinte Gleska Spends CARES Funds For Students to Continue Online



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Mission, SD – On March 12, 2021, Dr. Dan Seibel, Dean of the Education Department at Sinte Gleska University (SGU) announced that despite the downward trend in enrollment and college attendance nationally, especially true for tribal colleges, Sinte Gleska, in the Fall semester of 2020 has seen a dramatic turnaround.

Seibel said, “I’ve been at SGU for over three years and for the majority of that time, our enrollment was pretty stagnant, if not decreasing slowly.”

He added, “When Covid hit, we thought we might see that trend continue since we couldn’t offer classes in the traditional way.”

Then in the summer of 2020 SGU began training faculty to help transition into teaching online in a more effective way. Seibel indicated that faculty met as an administrative team and sought creatively to use CARES Act money to encourage students to continue their classes.

Seibel credits their action to the turnaround, especially when they witnessed the biggest jump in enrollment that they had seen in the past few decades.

He said, “Not only did our enrollment skyrocket, but students did really well in the new online world and had great things to say about the quality of education their instructors provided.”

At SGU, in the fall semester of 2020 student enrollment increased 165% from the previous year (803 total). In the spring semester, student enrollment went up 140% from the previous year (694 total).

What led to this increase of interest?

There are a number of reasons that Seibel provides as an answer, first, SGU’s use of COVID-19 Relief funds to lower the financial burden on students by providing full tuition scholarships during the fall and spring semesters. Second, SGU’s move to online classes for a majority of courses to keep staff, students, and community safe. Third, SGU provided a monthly internet stipend to support students with online connectivity. Fourth, each student at SGU during the pandemic was offered a free laptop to take online classes (one per student) to keep for current and future classes.

Seibel shared that SGU faculty reported students did a great job of engaging with classes even when sick, at home with kids, or dealing with family issues related to COVID-19.

One student reported that she had been hoping to move forward with her CNA degree but had small children and had to put it on hold. With the move to online classes, the student was able to successfully take and pass classes that got her back on track.

In a survey taken in the fall of 2020, many SGU students reported being grateful for online classes during the pandemic because it was safer, more flexible and more accessible. SGU reported the highest student satisfaction scores since they began the survey which is given after each semester where 85% of students reported that their online class experience was the same as or better than in-person classes. Over 97% of students answered “yes” to feeling cared about during the pandemic by their instructors. Over 98% reported that their instructors were patient with their personal challenges and felt like they were treated with the spirit of Wolakota by instructors.

Seibel sees this as confirmation that SGU was able to successfully keep the quality of class instruction high and maintain a sense of community while making the transition to online teaching.

In looking forward to the summer term in 2021, Seibel indicates that SGU will still offer free tuition for students, computers for those who have not yet received one, and an internet stipend. SGU is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2021 and will have a series of celebrations and special released to mark the occasion. For more information visit www.sintegleska.edu.

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