Huron University

Huron University

name = Huron University
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established = 1883 - 2005
type = Private (Closed)
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city = Huron
state = South Dakota,
country = United States
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Huron University, also known as Si Tanka University at Huron, was a private university formerly located in Huron, South Dakota. It closed on April 1, 2005.



What became Huron University was founded in 1883 as Presbyterian University of Southern Dakota, founded in Pierre while it was still in Dakota Territory. A year later the school became Pierre University. On May 31, 1887 the University conferred its first degree which was the first degree to be awarded in the Dakota Territory.

In 1897, the University moved to Huron and became Huron College. By 1915, the school had become accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools(NCA). Two years later one of its former students won a Rhodes Scholarship and in 1932 one of its attending students also won the award.

For-profit ownership

By the 1980s, the school had become seriously in debt and Midwest Educational Systems Inc., owner of Rapid City-based, for-profit business school National College, agreed to manage the school after the town of Huron agreed to take over existing debt as well as purchase the school's Fine Arts Center for $1.5m. On July 11, 1984 the deal was finalized, marking the end of the school's 100 years of Presbyterian affiliation. The new owner shifted the school's emphasis from liberal arts education to business. After three years of managing the school, Midwest Educational Systems exercised an option to buy the school for $1 and became the Higher Education Corporation of America.

In January 1989, the school was sold to Lansdowne University Ltd., a South Dakota corporation with ties to a college in London. The Board of Trustees of the school changed the name to Huron University, and soon opened a new branch: Huron University USA in London, which became an independent institution.

In February 1992, Eastern International Education Association, a Delaware-based corporation headed by a member of the Japanese House of Representatives, purchased the school and set up a branch campus in Tokyo. Businessman Chikara Higashi was assigned as president of the university and chairman of the board of trustees. Unfortunately, different management styles and a lack of understanding of the American education system caused problems for the school, and the North Central Association threatened to not renew the school's accreditation in 1996. Higashi resigned in July of that year and the school went up for sale once again.

In December 1996, the Huron and Sioux Falls campuses were sold for $3.5 million to for-profit Whitman Education Group, Inc., then owners of Colorado Technical University (CTU). The Sioux Falls campus currently remains a part of the CTU system. A group of local investors bought the Huron campus from Whitman Education Group in August 1999.

Tribal ownership

In April 2001, the University was purchased by Si Tanka College, a former community-college chartered by the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe of the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation. Si Tanka College, named after the Teton Sioux chief of the same name, already had a campus in Eagle Butte, and both campuses became the two-campus Si Tanka University. The Huron campus became Si Tanka University-Huron, the first off-reservation university controlled by a Native American tribe.

The Tribe financed the deal with $6.6 million in loans and guarantees from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, but soon found it could not support the school. The federal government grants that the Tribe had been counting on required at least 50% Native American enrollment, and Si Tanka couldn't meet that threshold with its new, primarily white Huron campus. The situation was further complicated by a scandal in April 2002, when a freshman basketball player at Si Tanka was arrested and eventually pleaded guilty to intentionally exposing another student to the AIDS virus. The case received national media coverage and student enrollment the following fall declined by 53 students to 475. The school was faced with too many professors and facilities for its number of students, leading to problems in paying faculty and staff.

The property fell into foreclosure in 2004 after the Tribe defaulted on $6.6 million worth of loans and faced a $2 million federal tax lien. On February 26, 2006, the Higher Learning Commission of the NCA voted to revoke the school's accreditation, effective on August 7, 2006, because the school's trustees had voted to cease operation as a university in the previous January [] . By March 2005, teachers and staff suffered multiple missed paychecks and gave the administration a vote of no confidence, walking off the job and effectively ending classes on March 28, 2005.


The Huron campus officially closed on April 1, 2005, ending its 123-year history. On April 9, Si Tanka filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. By April 25, the U.S. Department of Education alerted the school that it was no longer permitted to take part in federal grants and that its students were no longer eligible for federal student loans. On April 30, an unofficial graduation ceremony was held for the school's final seniors. Northern State University, a public university in Aberdeen took control of the school's transcripts.

In February 2006, the Chapter 11 case was dismissed when a federal judge found there weren't enough remaining assets for unsecured creditors. On May 5, 2006, the campus and all its assets were placed onto the auction block, including 23 acres with classrooms, campus center, dorms, library and gym — along with bleachers, band uniforms, bookcases and basketball banners. Two empty lots, including the football field, were sold immediately, but as of 2006, the bank was uninterested in selling buildings individually and continued to seek a buyer for the property as a whole.

Notable Alumni

*Garney Henley, Canadian Football Hall of Fame player
*Muriel Humphrey, wife of Vice President Hubert Humphrey, served briefly as U.S. Senator from Minnesota
*Harvey L. Wollman, Lieutenant Governor and Governor of South Dakota


* [ Auction ushers end to college] , "Aberdeen American News", May 5, 2006, "Accessed May 5, 2006"
*Associated Press, [ Timeline of significant events in history of former Huron University] , "Aberdeen American News", May 5, 2006, "Accessed May 5, 2006"
*Roger Larsen, [ City wants court to decide if it owns Fine Arts Center free of all mortgages, liens and encumbrances] , "Huron Plainsman", "Accessed May 5, 2006"

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