State universities attracting top students

State universities attracting top students High-performing students are a larger percentage of new freshmen at the South Dakota public universities, the executive director of the South Dakota Board of Regents said Friday.

New freshmen with a composite ACT score of 24 or higher represent 37 percent of the public university students who graduated from South Dakota high schools in 2002, Robert T. Tad Perry said. In 2001, the percentage of same-year high school graduates with ACT scores of 24 or better was 35 percent.

"We're pleased that efforts to attract the best students have resulted in a greater percentage of these students across the system," Perry said.

The percentage of same-year South Dakota high school graduates with ACT scores of 20 or below also declined from 39 percent in 2001 to 36 percent in 2002.

The analysis examined ACT scores of students who graduated from a South Dakota high school in 2002 and 2001 and who enrolled the following fall in one of the six public universities as a degree-seeking student carrying 12 or more credit hours. In 2001, there were 2,698 such students and 935, or 35 percent, had an ACT score of 24 or higher. This year, there are a total of 2,786 students and 1,028, or 37 percent, had the 24 or higher ACT score. A perfect ACT score is 36.

"Three things are happening to account for this positive trend," Perry said. "Public universities are doing a better job of marketing. Students are making better choices about prerequisites. And, our high schools are better preparing those who come to the public universities. "This is encouraging, because the research shows that students who are well prepared for college by taking rigorous high school courses, and who perform well on their college entrance exams, have a better chance of succeeding in postsecondary education," Perry said. He credited the universities' efforts to offer more scholarship opportunities for high-performing students, and especially the very successful work of university foundations to raise non-public dollars for scholarship opportunities.

Perry also noted the number of same-year high school graduates enrolled as degree-seeking students increased from 2,698 in 2001 to 2,786 in 2002, or 3.3 percent. Within this population, the number with ACT scores of 24 or higher increased from 935 to 1,038, or 9.9 percent.

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