Watertown, SDUniversity Website: www.lakeareatech.edu
Coordinates: 44°54′11″N 97°05′42″W / 44.903031°N 97.095081°W / 44.903031; -97.095081
Lake Area Technical Institute is a technical school located in Watertown, South Dakota. The campus covers 40 acres and serves an area of 18,000 square miles. Founded in 1965, Lake Area Tech was the first technical school to be established in South Dakota, followed by schools in Mitchell, Sioux Falls and Rapid City.
Today, Lake Area Tech has 29 programs, 11 E-Degrees and serves more than 1,700 full-time, part-time and online students. Some of the school's longstanding programs include: Agriculture, Welding, Cosmetology, Diesel, Aviation Maintenance, and Nursing. Currently, the school boasts a 16:1 student/faculty ratio, small class sizes, low tuition cost and a 99% graduate placement rate.
Chosen in September 2012 as a Top 10 finalist for the Aspen Prize from a pool of more than 1,200 two-year colleges, Lake Area Tech was named one of the Top 4 two-year colleges in the nation and a finalist-with-distinction for the 2013 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. The Prize was awarded in March 2013 in Washington, D.C. following an intense data collection process by Aspen officials that included a rigorous review of critical elements of student success including learning, completion, and employment after college. This is the second consecutive Aspen Prize LATI has earned. In 2011, Lake Area Tech was named one of the top five community colleges in the nation by the Aspen Institute. The other 2013 finalist-with-distinction is Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn, NY. Co-winners of the 2013 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence are Walla Walla Community College in Walla Walla, WA and Santa Barbara City College in Santa Barbara, CA.
According to Aspen's research, LATI has one of the best graduation rates in America. The school has also been applauded for providing degrees that that lead directly to employment. "From the moment students enroll, Lake Area Technical Institute (LATI) is structured so that students have a great chance of both completing their degrees and gaining the hands-on skills needed to land a good job,” said Josh Wyner, Executive Director of the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program. “With clear, rigorous programs aligned to available jobs, LATI shows the way to not just high graduation rates, but degrees with high value for both students and employers alike.”
LATI has been recognized as "Fastest Growing 2 Year College" (2007), a "Great College to Work For" the past four years in a row by the Chronicle of Higher Education, and a 2012 Military Friendly School.
Each of Lake Area Tech's 29 programs rely on the guidance of an advisory board of industry owners and professionals. These advisory boards keep LATI curriculum abreast of industry trends and demands. Board members also give Lake Area Tech faculty and administration immediate feedback on how graduates are performing in the workplace.
To assist in the development of a skilled workforce for the region, business partners often provide LATI programs with training equipment and internship opportunities. For example, as a result of business partnerships, Diesel and Ag students have access to a truck chassis dynamometer and a variety of new machinery for hands-on training. LATI is also among a select group of two-year schools to have a cadaver lab. Examples of LATI business partners include: Butler CAT Corporation, Prairie Lakes Health Care System, Titan Machinery, South Dakota Wheatgrowers, Cenex/Harvest States, Building Products Inc, Missouri River Energy, Ottertail Power, Watertown Municipal Utilities, Valley Queen Cheese, Horton Manufacturing, First Bank and Trust, and the Watertown Community Foundation.
The fall of 2012 marked nine consecutive years of enrollment growth for Lake Area Technical Institute. Due to the increasing number of students, the school began a four-phase campus expansion project in the fall of 2008. The project includes a new Diesel, Energy, and Welding facility, a new Automotive and Health Science Facility, a centralized Student Center, and a new Agriculture facility. In addition, the school has developed new programs to meet local and regional industry needs. These programs include the unique Energy Operations program, Custom Paint and Fabrication, Entrepreneurship, and new options within the Business Associate program including Hospitality & Tourism, Photography/Media, and Interior Business Design. Lake Area Tech has also added a new "Security Specialist" option to Computer Information Systems, as well as a Med/Fire Rescue program. New programs for the fall of 2013 include High Performance Engine Machining and Heavy Equipment Operator. A new Law Enforcement program will begin Fall 2014.
Lake Area Technical Institute is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, which is a member of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.