USD student numbers soar

USD student numbers soar
The University of South Dakota continues its upward climb in enrollment, as more than 9,200 students are attending classes this fall.

That marks a jump of 497 students, for 5.7 percent growth, on the Vermillion campus, according to Board of Regents figures released Tuesday.

The 9,243 students at USD helped fuel a record 32,148 enrollment for the entire Regents system of six public universities. The system has seen a fall enrollment jump of 1,247 students, or a 4 percent climb.

Matt Moen, USD vice president of academic affairs, said the Vermillion university has performed better in attracting students from the region.

"As our academic reputation continues to climb upward, our student numbers are climbing upward," Moen said.

USD has always drawn well from Nebraska and Iowa, and the number of non-residents is growing along with the number of South Dakotans, Moen said.

"We are doing a much better job of telling our story over time," he added.

But the enrollment increase is not just about building numbers, Moen said. The USD student body reflects quality as well as quantity, he said.

"The academic caliber of students that we recruit has resulted in stronger incoming classes," he said.

The offering of prestigious scholarships not only attracts new students but also helps USD keep them, Moen said. In fact, he pointed to retention as a major reason that USD broke the 9,000-student level this fall.

"This reflects a steady climb, and we are very pleased with the results this year," he said.

USD has grown in another area – full-time equivalent students, based on total credit hours generated by all students within the system.

This fall, USD has enrolled the equivalent of 6,797 full-time students. That marks a jump of 193 students over last fall for a 3 percent hike. In turn, the entire public university system has seen a record FTE with 24,512 students, a jump of 368.

Regents' Executive Director Tad Perry noted the system has increased more than 6,400 students since 1997.

That trend has continued despite a declining number of high school graduates in South Dakota and surrounding states, Perry said. He pointed to four driving factors:

  • Scholarships, particularly the South Dakota Opportunity Scholarship totaling $5,000 over four years to South Dakota students meeting academic requirements and taking required rigorous courses in high school.

    Besides providing valuable financial aid, the scholarships help students better prepare for college and encourage them to stay in the state, Perry said. He predicted the amount of the Opportunity Scholarship will need to increase because other states are actively recruiting South Dakotans.

    "We've got to be more aggressive in countering that and holding them in this state," Perry said.

  • A stronger effort at keeping students once they arrive on campus.
  • A conscious effort to attract students from other states, helping offset the declining pool of students in South Dakota and in turn encouraging non-residents to stay in the state after graduation and to bolster the economy and labor pool.
  • More non-traditional students (25 and older) making use of campuses in Sioux Falls, Pierre and Rapid City, as well as more on-line and distance learning.

    The growth of college enrollments – and keeping those students in South Dakota – also ties in with Gov. Mike Rounds' 2010 Initiative, Perry said.

    Future goals include increasing the number of South Dakotans who go on to post-secondary education, increasing the percentage who attend a public university and reaching those adults who have completed some college coursework but not their degree, Perry said.

    The following are the other South Dakota public universities and their enrollments:

  • Black Hills State, Spearfish – 4,004, up 108 for 2.77 percent growth.
  • Dakota State, Madison – 2,570, up 131 for 5.37 percent growth.
  • Northern State, Aberdeen – 2,555, up 236 for 10.18 percent growth.
  • School of Mines and Technology, Rapid City – 2,070, down 54 for 2.54 percent decline.
  • South Dakota State, Brookings – 11,706, up 329 for 2.89 percent growth.
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