NSU-HCC partnership a ‘win-win’ for community, university

Graduates standing together

Pictured: Huron educator and South Dakota Teacher of the Year Erica Boomsma (third row, second from right) along with the rest of her cohort graduating from NSU with a master’s degree through HCC.


ABERDEEN, S.D. – When it comes to successful partnerships, Huron Community Campus is a shining example of a collaboration that benefits the university, community and workforce.

“I feel that the partnership has created a win-win for both NSU and Huron,” said HCC Executive Director Doug Pietz. “NSU wins by receiving students who may not have looked at Northern as a viable option. Students work on their general required courses for one or two years in Huron and then move to Aberdeen. Most of the time, when students transition to Aberdeen, they are ready to take courses in their major field of study.”

The numbers show that to be true. Of the 541 students who have taken NSU classes through HCC since they were first offered in fall 2012, 138 later took classes on the Northern campus. Around 200 more took online classes through NSU.

The result: 61 students ended up graduating from Northern with an undergraduate degree, and 75 with a graduate degree.

“Post-secondary education in our regional area was a primary basis for the design of Huron Community Campus,” said Jim White, former board member with HCC and state legislator. “Several things had to come together to make this dream become a reality. The partnership with NSU allowed us to provide accreditation and an academic basis for area students seeking post-secondary education. Our tuition-assistance program makes the classes affordable and convenient. We continue to see new educational opportunities with our NSU partnership.”

NSU President Dr. Tim Downs said Northern is thrilled with the way the partnership with HCC has developed.

“We want to make that connection even stronger,” Downs said. “We want even more students to see that taking courses at the Huron campus is not only a convenient start to their education, but it’s also an excellent pathway to completing their degree at NSU.”

‘Major Pipeline’ for Northern

That desire for Northern to be a regional leader for higher education is what has made this partnership so successful, Pietz said.

“NSU understands that Huron and the surrounding area can and is a major pipeline for students to their campus,” Pietz said. “NSU also understands that by providing higher education in Huron, students that may not continue their education, or nontraditional students that did not further their education post high school, have the opportunity to further their learning.”

Another factor in the success: Huron took a proactive approach to higher education. 

“The residents of Huron understood the importance of an educated work force,” Pietz said. “The support of the City Commission, Huron University Foundation, Huron Community Foundation and the United Way have all come together to be valuable partners in this endeavor.”

Major Impact on Teachers

Pietz said the graduate program that HCC offers through Northern has had a major impact on teachers in the Huron School District.

According to figures from the Huron School District, in the past few years, the number of teachers in the district with a master’s degree has increased from approximately 10 to 87, with the majority coming from Northern through HCC. This has resulted in higher teacher pay and increased retention for the district.

“The master’s in teaching and learning has allowed teachers to continue their education, which has led the district to have one of the highest number of teachers with master’s degree in the state,” Pietz said. “Both the undergraduate and graduate programs have had a positive impact on Huron and the region by providing a work force that is educated and ready to work in their chosen fields.”

Student Perspective

Huron teacher Erica Boomsma, 2019 South Dakota Teacher of the year, said Huron Community Campus was an integral part of her graduate education. She had always wanted to get her master’s degree in education, and the partnership between HCC and NSU allowed her to take that next step.

“I was able to take face-to-face classes from incredible Northern State University professors and graduate as an NSU alum. I was able to take advantage of excellent tuition, thanks to the Huron University Foundation,” Boomsma said. “And, the location was ideal! Living and working in Huron, I was able to take classes on our city’s campus. I was also a brand new mom, with a two-week-old son. Not having to drive a long distance and knowing that I was nearby if needed gave me peace to concentrate in my classes.”

Getting her master’s degree online wouldn’t have been the same, said Boomsma, who looked forward to the weekly lessons and interaction. She said the relationships she developed with teachers and other students were genuine and have stood the test of time.

“I wholeheartedly recommend taking classes on the Huron Community Campus,” Boomsma said. “I absolutely loved my experience. I can honestly say that those two years reshaped me and reenergized me as a teacher. I will always be grateful!”

Increasing Student Numbers

Looking to the future, officials expect student numbers to keep growing.

“The numbers at Huron Community Campus will continue to increase simply because of the outstanding academic program provided by NSU,” Pietz said. “NSU has ensured that all classes offered on the Huron campus have the same academic requirements as courses which are taught in Aberdeen, therefore ensuring rigor.”

Downs said Northern is committed to its partnership with Huron.

“This collaboration will only get stronger in years to come,” Downs said. “We look forward to a continued positive relationship that will result in even more Huron area students earning degrees from Northern.”

To learn more about studying at Huron Community Campus, contact NSU Admissions at 1-800-678-5330 or email admissions@northern.edu.

About Northern State University

Northern State University is a regional university that offers outstanding academics and exceptional extracurricular activities at an affordable price on a safe, welcoming campus. Northern State recently announced its Educational Impact Campaign, with a goal of raising $55 million for a new South Dakota School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, new athletic and recreation fields, and an on-campus regional sports complex. Once the campaign is complete, NSU will be the recipient of more than $100 million in privately funded building projects and scholarships within a decade. To learn more, visit NSU Admissions.