All state universities saw a decrease in student enrollment this fall except for one—DSU saw a positive enrollment this last fall. Overall enrollment for state universities is down 3% this fall. The schools that were hit the hardest were Northern State University, Black Hills State University, and South Dakota State University. There are a number of factors that impacted the enrollment numbers each of the state universities with lower enrollment than last year.
Northern State University pointed out that their retention rate, the number of students who stayed at the school from freshman to sophomore year, dropped from 77% over the last two years to 73% this fall. This led to a decrease in their enrollment statistics even though they had an increase in new freshman enrollment from last year. Retention rates for most of the state universities seem to be around 70-78% with the average for the state being 75%.
Black Hills State University had a loss in graduate students. They were down 116 graduate students this semester; they currently have 174 graduate students enrolled. They also reported a loss in transfer students and total number of students enrolled. The loss of graduate students was mainly due to teachers that were taking courses, but not working towards a degree.
South Dakota State University lost a number of students to the workforce last year. They had their second-highest number of degrees distributed last year and saw a 6% increase in 4-year graduation rates. This led to the decrease in enrollment, although there were also fewer frealsshmen enrolled this fall at 2,132. There are also more students registered that come to the school with dual credits as freshmen; this leads to faster graduation rates.
The University of South Dakota saw a minor 1% decrease in enrollment. Though they did get a 16% increase in their law school and had one of the highest retention rates. USD and SDSU had the highest retention rates at 78%.
The biggest contributors to lower enrollment in-state seem to be faster graduation rates and financial aid. With more students graduating and joining the workforce more schools are seeing lower enrollments. South Dakota is the only state with no needs-based financial aid program, so even students who receive aid and wish to go to college still may not have enough money to attend.
DSU saw an increase in overall enrollment. The number of enrolled freshmen is at 425, 5% higher than last year and is the highest freshman enrollment so far. There was also an increase in graduate students. The retention rate for DSU seems to be at 72% which is currently below the state average.
Although DSU was the only public university in South Dakota with positive enrollment there is a chance if state enrollment trends continue that we may not have this in the upcoming years.