One of South Dakota's top tech schools is getting some love from a national publication.

Watertown's Lake Area Technical Institute is featured in the June 12 issue of TIME magazine.

In 'The Case For Community College', TIME tells the story of a Lake Area Tech student named Riley Anderson, who grew up in a small town 30 minutes from Watertown and came to the school in 2015.

According to TIME, Anderson, who just graduated in May, turned a C grade point average into a degree at Lake Area Tech, which has landed him a maintenance technician job at 3M, starting at $60,000, which is $7,000 above the median income in South Dakota.

TIME uses Anderson and Lake Area Tech (LATI) as examples of how community colleges and tech schools are offering a viable alternative to traditional four-year universities:

LATI is a model for the growing number of politicians, CEOs and academics who believe that community colleges have the potential to become much needed engines of economic and social mobility. Last year, 99% of its students entered the workforce or went on to four-year colleges. The school has an 83% retention rate, well above the national community-college average of about 50%, and few instances of students' defaulting on their loans. The evolving curriculum is designed with input from more than 300 regional businesses, and starting salaries for LATI alumni average 27% more than those of other new hires in the region. All of this has led the college, with a student body of almost 2,500, to 14 consecutive years of growing enrollment. Officials originally projected that LATI would reach its current size in 2040.

The article also outlines how declining enrollments and tighter funding are making it more difficult for community colleges and tech schools nationwide to operate.

Lake Area Tech was founded in 1965 and now has an enrollment of more than 2,400 students. It offers 29 different programs and a dozen online 'e-degrees'.


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