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  1. South Dakota News Watch sponsored a virtual town hall on higher education on Dec. 7; top experts in education shared views on a number of topics, including ways to reduce barriers to a college degree.
  2. Oglala Lakota College in southwestern South Dakota was able to keep its students and staff safe while also benefitting from federal aid that allowed for a vast expansion of computer and internet access for its students.
  3. Students now attending South Dakota colleges have had to adjust to a new normal and persevere during a time of unprecedented changes to higher education during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
  4. The gap in educational achievement and access to higher education has grown worse during the COVID-19 pandemic as fewer low-income and minority students will be able to afford or be ready to attend college.
  5. The COVID-19 pandemic created a major interruption for colleges and universities across South Dakota and the nation, causing changes in how instruction was delivered, how students learned and resulting in enrollment and revenue declines for schools both public and private, large and small. Yet the pandemic only exacerbated long-range challenges already faced by the American higher education system. In a four-part special report, South Dakota News Watch takes an in-depth look at where higher education stands now and what the future might look like.
  6. With COVID-19 vaccine approval at hand, experts say the rural nature of South Dakota, the state's limited capability to store and distribute the vaccine and reluctance by some residents to take the vaccine could slow the delivery and reduce the effectiveness of the vaccines.
  7. As COVID-19 continues to hospitalize and kill more people in South Dakota, declining capacity in state hospitals to care for patients with the most severe symptoms has forced some patients to board planes for emergency treatment in other states. Medical experts warn the situation could worsen if a post-Thanksgiving spike in COVID-19 cases arrives as expected or if coronavirus cases continue to increase for any reason.
  8. While most South Dakotans will dine on mass-produced, big-breasted white turkeys this Thanksgiving, some families will take advantage of the efforts of a handful of niche farmers in the state who are breeding, raising and selling "heritage turkeys" that were on the verge of extinction but are being revived as part of a growing farm-to-table consumer market.
  9. Opposition to legalization of medical and recreational marijuana in South Dakota centered in part on concerns that youth use of the drug would increase after legalization, and prevention advocates and law enforcement officials remain worried now that voters approved both forms of legal pot on Nov. 3. But a review of research studies and data from states where it is already legal provides mixed results and few firm conclusions about legalization's effects on youth.
  10. A recent poll of South Dakota residents found that support is far lower among women compared to men for Gov. Kristi Noem, her policies and the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Experts say there are several reasons that South Dakota women, who often are primary caretakers of children and the elderly, and who have suffered greater economic and emotional burdens due to the coronavirus, are less approving of Noem's performance.
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