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State universities report consecutive years with enrollment gains


There are 34,370 students in South Dakota’s university system – and that number has grown for a second consecutive year. Officials say it’s time for students to get back in the classroom.

The Board of Regents, which oversees the state’s public university system, issued its 2023 enrollment report this week.

For executive director Nathan Lukkes, he said students are noticing what South Dakota has to offer.

“As a system we were up 2.6% in first time freshman and up 2% in headcount, which is great given we were up in both last year," Lukkes said. "I think students are taking note of Forbes recently ranking South Dakota as the most affordable state to get a college degree. We’re consistently at the top from a return on investment in college, and I think students are taking note and our enrollment numbers reflect it.”

Lukkes said it’s reflective of the wider health of the system.

“These numbers don’t just happen," Lukkes said. "They’re the produce of a concerted effort by many stakeholders. To the faculty and staff on campus to state lawmakers to business leaders and communities across the state. We’ve been grateful for the tuition freezes we’ve been able to maintain in recent years.”

With the semester now under way, Lukkes said campuses across the state met the logistical challenges in having more students on campus.

“From housing accommodations to getting students enrolled in courses and making sure they’re prepared and ready to hit the ground running on day one," Lukkes said. "Fortunately, we have great presidents and great staff and faculty on our campuses that are eager and willing to help students be successful when they get to campus.”

Of the Regental schools, Dakota State saw the largest increase in headcount at 8.3 precent.

C.J. Keene is a Rapid City-based journalist covering the legal system, education, and culture