Oglala Lakota College
3 Mile Creek Road
P.O. Box 490
Kyle, SD 57752
Mission, Vision, Educational Philosophy
Oglala Lakota College (OLC) is an institution of higher education chartered by Oglala Sioux Tribe to coordinate all higher education on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Its mission is to offer a wide range of educational opportunities from community service offerings to certificates, to undergraduate degrees. The ultimate goal is the establishment of a Lakota University.
In carrying out the mission, the Oglala Lakota College Board of Trustees stresses Lakota culture and tribal self-determination. The college prepares students to understand the larger society as well as the customs and beliefs of the Lakota people. Oglala Lakota College provides a framework of excellence for student knowledge, skills, and values towards piya wiconi - a new beginning for harmony in fulfillment of aspirations and dreams.
In March 1971, the Oglala Sioux Tribal Council chartered the Lakota Higher Education Center, asserting that the creation of a tribally controlled educational institution was a key to asserting tribal sovereignty.
During its non-accredited years, the college entered into agreements with Black Hills State College, University of South Dakota, and South Dakota State University, allowing it to teach credit-bearing courses on the reservation. The college awarded it first associate’s degrees in 1974.
In 1978, the Lakota Higher Education Center changed its name to Oglala Sioux Community College to reflect its status as a community college. The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools bestowed accreditation in 1983, the same year the college adopted its current name, Oglala Lakota College. The HLC renewed accreditation several times since then, as OLC expanded its degree offerings to include bachelor’s and master’s degree programs. The college received Land Grant status in 1994.
Geographic Features and Challenges
The Pine Ridge Reservation covers nearly 3,500 square miles of southwest South Dakota. By most economic measures, the reservation also contains the poorest counties in the United States. Socio-economic indicators indeed paint a bleak portrait of living conditions on the reservation: unemployment rates hover around 80 percent, nearly two-thirds of all children live below the poverty line, and life expectancy on the reservation is the lowest in the Western Hemisphere, other than Haiti.
OLC continues to grow in spite of these living conditions. OLC operates a multi-campus system in order to reach its geographically dispersed population. OLC operates nine instructional centers in each of the reservation’s districts, as well sites in Rapid City, Martin, and on the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Reservation. Administrative offices are headquartered in the reservation’s center, near the town of Kyle.
Academics and Students
A true tribal college, 93 percent of OLC’s students identify as Native American. Sixty-eight percent are female and 56 percent pursue their studies full-time. OLC offers one master’s of arts program, four bachelors’ of arts degree programs, nine bachelors’ of science degree programs, 11 associates’ of arts degree programs, five associates’ of applied science degree programs, and a wide array of certificate programs. The college employs 72 full-time and 119 part-time faculty members to teach this course load.
Such diverse academic programming clearly appeals to a growing number of tribal members. In 2006, enrollment hovered around 1,500 students. In 2010, student enrollment increased to 1,830 students. The number of degrees conferred increased dramatically during this time as well. In the 2006-07 academic year, OLC awarded 69 associate’s degrees and 39 bachelor’s degrees. Four years later, OLC conferred 102 associate’s degrees and 45 bachelor’s degrees. OLC also awarded seven master’s degrees that year.
Other Outstanding Accomplishments
In 2011, OLC passed the milestone of its 40th year of operations. Educational programs developed in recent years reflect the diversity of students served at OLC. For example, OLC’s new partnership with South Dakota State University allows SDSU's civil and environmental engineering curriculum to be taught at Oglala Lakota College, bolstering its ability to offer a full two-year pre-engineering program. A similar project developed with the South Dakota School of Mines allows OLC’s pre-engineering students to gain real-world engineering experience by working alongside School of Mines engineering students.
Such advanced programming greatly enhances the academic experience for OLC students, which in turn, positively affects educational outcomes. In 2011, 204 students graduated from OLC, the most in the school's 40-year history.