Leading the charge in meeting the goals of greater student numbers is USD.
In terms of headcount and full-time equivalent students, the Vermillion institution still ranks second to South Dakota State University.
The local university, however, is the leader among all of South Dakota's six higher education facilities in terms of building student numbers.
USD's headcount this fall is 8,641, compared to 8,120 at this time last year. That's an increase of 521 students, and a 6.42 percent growth in this category.
Full-time equivalent students at the university number 6,525 this fall. That's up substantially from last year's total of just under 6,135 FTE students, and represents a growth of 6.36 percent in this category.
USD experienced more growth than all public universities in the state combined � representing 60 percent of the state's headcount enrollment increase and more than 70 percent of the increase in full-time equivalent (FTE) students.
"?pretty darn happy"
"I'm pleased about the year that the University of South Dakota had this year," President James Abbott said. "I'm particularly pleased by the 6 percent overall increase, but probably more than anything else, I'm very happy with the 10 percent increase in the freshman class.
"That means a great deal to us," he said, "because while we certainly have educational operations in Sioux Falls with USDSU � we're doing well there � I guess for a residential institution, it's fair to say the freshman class, the first-time students, is probably the key to success."
Abbott is also pleased to report that graduate student numbers had increased by 8 percent at USD.
"We just feel good all the way around," he said. "Six percent is not bad growth all the way around, so we're pretty darn happy."
"South Dakota public universities have done what they have been charged to do by the South Dakota Board of Regents," Regents Executive Director Robert Tad Perry.
One of the Regents' goals, he said, is to provide higher education access to every qualified South Dakotan.
"The institutions have met that challenge with the results being the enrollments of this year," Perry said. "System-wide, we are up roughly 3 percent in enrollment. The most important message is � these are record enrollments.
"We have set milestones for public university service to the state of South Dakota this year," he said. "We are going to serve 30,720 headcount students. This is the first time we've ever gone over the 30,000 students-serviced mark, and that is a record."
South Dakota higher education also is experiencing a record in the total number of full-time equivalent students, Perry said.
"This fall is the first time we have seen our numbers go above 24,000," he said. "We will serve, in full-time equivalents, 24,089 students this year. Those are both milestones, those are both records, and we are pleased with the results of this year's enrollments at the six universities."
All six of the state's public higher education facilities contributed, in part, to setting those milestones.
Headcount numbers fell by approximately 1.4 percent at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, and full-time equivalent numbers dropped by .5 percent at Dakota State University.
Those losses, however, were easily overcome by the gains posted at other universities.
Growth and decline
Enrollment grew at all the USD campuses, including the USDSU campus in Sioux Falls, where a growing number of residents in the state's largest city are choosing USD for their continued education. USD saw a nearly 4 percent increase in student numbers at the Sioux Falls center. The university also made significant gains in distance education students, growing over 16 percent from last year. The School of Law and School of Medicine programs continue to operate at capacity.
The enrollment growth is even more remarkable in light of a declining market and increased competition, Abbott said.
"Applications to the university are up significantly and the acceptance rate also grew," Abbott said. "A total increase of more than 5 percent is considered outstanding at any educational institution so I couldn't be more pleased, especially in light of declining high school graduation rates in the state and region."
The increased freshman enrollment is a positive indicator that a significant number of the region's students are making USD their first choice for higher education. The university is increasingly attractive to freshman students from the surrounding region, with 12 percent more students from Iowa, 19 percent more from Minnesota and 14 percent more from South Dakota.
Quality students enroll Almost 75 percent of the university's new freshman class is comprised of Southota students, helping to achieve the Regents' goal of keeping South Dakota students in state for their higher education careers.
Abbott is also pleased with the quality of the new freshman class. Almost 10 percent of USD's incoming class will be part of the University Honors Program with an average ACT score of 28.7.
�"We have consistently focused our attention on quality and not quantity. I'm very satisfied that USD is establishing itself as an institution of academic rigor. Students are choosing The University of South Dakota because of program availability and our sharp focus on research efforts," Abbott said.
"Our extraordinary educational quality has been noticed again just this week, as USD's School of Business and School of Law have been named for the first time to Princeton Review's annual Best 237 Business Schools and Best 159 Law Schools," said Michelle Lavallee, vice president for student services and chief marketing officer. "What is particularly significant about these endorsements is that they come directly from student feedback."
"The trends we are seeing this year are fantastic," Abbott said. "As we work to become the best small publicly funded flagship university in the U.S., these results certainly put us on the path to achieve that goal."
Meeting a need�
"We live in a period of time when the national economy and the world economy is requiring more of those of us in higher education," Perry said. "When you look at the forecast for growth occupations in this country from the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, we know that we are going to have about a 14 percent total job growth rate.
"Yet when we look at professional occupations and those requiring professional degrees, we need 23 percent more folks to meet the demands of the work force in this country as we look to the next decade," he said.