BIA Rd 700, Agency Village
P.O. Box 689, Agency Village
Sisseton, SD 57262
Mission, Vision, Educational Philosophy
Sisseton Wahpeton College (SWC) provides higher education, research, vocational and technical education and continuing education to the members of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate of the Lake Traverse Reservation and others within the historical lands of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate. SWC will preserve and extend Dakota culture, language, and history while contributing to economic development through the provision of human capital and other resources.
SWC endeavors to provide quality instruction in all its programs, to encourage and support excellence in research, to promote public service activities that meet tribal and local needs and to implement comprehensive support services to ensure student and institutional success.
For many years prior to the advent of the tribal college movement, elders on the Lake Traverse Reservation envisioned a time when their people would take control of the education of tribal youth. The Sisseton Wahpeton Sioux Tribe’s tribal council chartered SWC in 1979 in response. SWC received a much-needed financial boost in 1980 with passage of the Tribally Controlled Community College Assistance Act that allocated funding for tribal colleges.
SWC celebrated its first graduating class in 1983, and pursued accreditation after receiving candidacy status from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. SWC received initial accreditation in 1990 and Land Grant Status in 1994. SWC, originally a vocational and technical school, added an increasing number of academic courses over the years. The college created the Institute for Dakota Studies in 1989 to teach, study, and preserve the tribe's unique history and traditions. The Center for Excellence in Dakota Language, established at SWC in 2005, works with the college's strong Dakota studies and Dakota Language programs to revitalize the Dakota language. The HLC renewed SWC’s accreditation in 2009.
Geographic Features and Challenges
Sisseton Wahpeton College is located in the far northeastern corner of South Dakota, on the 105,000-acre Lake Traverse Reservation. Just more than 10,000 residents live on the reservation, and of those, one-third identify as American Indian. The small town of Sisseton lies almost equidistant from the nearest major metropolitan areas of Bismarck, North Dakota, Pierre, South Dakota and Minneapolis, Minnesota. Each is more than 200 miles away.
Approximately one in five Sisseton residents and one in four of Sisseton’s children live below the poverty line. With its limited resources, SWC remains challenged to provide educational supports to this rurally-isolated and economically-stressed community that are ample enough to affect student employability and community job creation.
Transportation remains a formidable challenge for many SWC students. The college estimates that some students must travel 4,000 miles a semester to attend classes. For those students graduating and wishing to pursue a four-year degree, transportation continues to present a significant barrier. Currently, the closest four-year college is 45 miles away.
Academics and Students
Approximately 260 students enrolled at SWC in the fall of 2010, representing a slight decrease from the 279 students enrolled in 2006. Currently, 73 percent of students enroll full-time, 77 percent are female and 77 percent identify as American Indian.
A faculty of 12 full-time members and 8 part-time members teach courses in 10 associates’ of arts degree programs, six associates’ of applied science degree programs, three associates’ of science degree programs, and four certificate programs. SWC graduates just over 20 students each year. The college has agreements with several four-year degree granting institutions that allow SWC students to take much of their course work at SWC and seamlessly matriculate to another institution. The agreement between SWC and Mount Marty College offers SWC students the opportunity to earn a baccalaureate degree in business and tribal governance, a one-of-a-kind program in the state.
Other Outstanding Accomplishments
SWC provides such support services as Adult Basic Education, GED preparation and testing, career counseling, and houses tribal archives to name a few. A true community institution, the college shares its resources openly with the tribe. SWC and the tribe have enacted partnerships, such as the administration of welfare reform measures and related job readiness training, to the benefit of the entire tribal community.
The college has recently experienced a period of facilities expansion that includes the distinctive Song to the Great Spirit building, a new vocational education building.