The Scouting Report: A weekly digest
Canton voters revolt, enrollment success, modest women, Californication
Our week starts in beautiful Canton, South Dakota where voters have rejected a move by the city to create a municipal garbage program. The commission there voted in June to open garbage and recycling services up to a bidding process in which a private hauler would get the exclusive rights to pick up trash in Canton. But after passage, the measure was referred to a vote.
It lost convincingly, with 509 people voting against the idea while just 112 supported a monopolized garbage program. Voter turnout was 27 percent.
Proponents figured that a hauler with exclusive rights to Canton could bid at a lower per household cost. So, for example, a hauler might submit a bid for $15 per house per month when, under the current market, each individual household might pay $25 a month. Instead of paying a bill from a hauler, homeowners would pay the city directly. Proponents argued this would save homeowners money.
But opponents smelled a rat. They figured the city would just jack up the price it charged for garbage pickup in order to fund pet projects with a new revenue source. Indeed, the original proposal called for using garbage revenues on a pool project.
The proposal suffered a major setback when a popular hauler announced that it would not submit a bid if Canton went forward with municipal service.
Multiple years of tuition freezes in South Dakota’s public university system continue to yield enrollment increases. The Board of Regents reported a 2.6 percent increase of first-time freshmen over 2022. That 2022 class was up 6 percent over 2021. This year’s overall headcount was up 2 percent from the fall of 2022.
These numbers are important because the future of higher education is in doubt. For one, schools face a sharp demographic decline in 2025 amid the crash of births consummated during the opening years of the Great Recession. That generation is nearing the gates of college. Meanwhile, college-age people are questioning the wisdom of dumping tens of thousands of dollars on degrees that have dubious value. What, for example, is the long-term value of a gender studies degree? Probably not much. But it will still cost plenty.
Dakota State University and Northern State University saw the largest increases in total headcount, with DSU reporting an 8.3 percent increase over last fall and NSU 5.3 percent.
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