Enrollment

BOR Enrollment Down, Retention Up for Fall 2020

17 hours ago
South Dakota Board of Regents

Fall enrollment is down in the state’s public university system for a third year in a row, but Board of Regents leadership says it’s not all bad news.

The fall 2020 headcount for the state’s six public universities is down 2.8%. That’s a loss of 954 students system-wide from last year’s enrollment. It’s not the worst drop in recent memory, but the decrease continues a trend that started in 2018.

BOR executive director Brian Maher says there is some good news: 2019’s first-year students came back this fall at a higher rate than previous years.

Jackie Hendry

The abrupt end of the spring semester has effected how many college students come back to school—but not in the way many might expect. The University of South Dakota is seeing unusually high numbers of freshman returning as sophomores this year.

USD President Sheila Gestring says that freshman retention rate was 6% lower than the previous year in May. But that was before the university announced plans to bring students back to campus.

College Admissions During COVID-19

May 19, 2020
LA Johnson / NPR

In The Moment … May 19, 2020 Show 820 Hour 1

Going back to school is all part of getting back to normal. How are South Dakota colleges preparing for the return of students? How have they uniquely maintained contact with students, especially incoming freshmen during the pandemic? And how much different will the on-campus experience be this fall? Justin Fraase is the director of enrollment, communications and marketing at Northern State University in Aberdeen, and Aimee VanderFeen is the vice president for enrollment at the University of Sioux Falls.

South Dakota Board of Regents

Fall enrollment for full-time equivalent students at South Dakota’s six public universities is down three percent. That’s nearly a full percentage point lower than last fall. This is the fifth year in a row fall enrollment has shown a decrease in full-time students. 

The Board of Regents is the governing body over the state’s public universities. BOR Executive Director and CEO Paul Beran says the decline in students signals a strong job market that encourages some students to choose the workforce over education.

Sioux Falls School District

Roosevelt High School in Sioux Falls is seeing record enrollment this year. Principal Tim Hazlett says since opening in the early 90’s, the school’s population has doubled to more than 2,300 students.

 Principal Hazlett explains that a population shift to the west side of Sioux Falls is one reason for the continued growth at Roosevelt High School. He says there are increasing business and affordable living options west of Interstate 29.

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

State lawmakers say they want to adjust parts of last year’s education overhaul. The governor says the current reform is working, because a sales tax for teacher pay is pushing average educator salaries up.  

One piece of vast K-12 education reform from 2016’s legislative session involves declining enrollment. Schools now must use the final number of students enrolled in the fall to determine their share of state dollars. Before they could average the previous two years to ease into lower funding.