South Dakota State University students head to class on campus this morning. While enrollment numbers are down slightly at SDSU this fall, officials say they’re happy with the school’s numbers for freshmen, transfer and international students. The biggest losses are in the graduate school. Photo by John Kubal/Register
• SDSU has 12,583 students this fall; main drop is in grad school
BROOKINGS – While the school is happy with its enrollment numbers for freshmen, transfer and international students, overall enrollment is down slightly at South Dakota State University this fall, from 12,725 last fall to 12,583 now.
SDSU President David Chicoine told members of the media and South Dakota Board of Regents Tuesday that of the 142-student difference between this fall and last – a 1.12 percent drop – most students were lost from the graduate school.
SDSU has 20 fewer Ph.D. students and 107 fewer master’s students this year.
“Probably two drivers in that,” Chicoine said. “One is the counter-cyclical nature of graduate student enrollment. The numbers tend to increase going into, and in, a recession and to decline coming out, because workforce opportunities are stronger for students with an undergraduate degree and they then choose, perhaps, to pursue a job opportunity as opposed to staying in grad school.
“And then the other, of course, is we had fewer faculty in our university this last year because of the reduction in state support,” he said. “And, the number of faculty are really important for the recruiting and mentoring of graduate students. So, I think that a combination of those two factors has impacted our masters student numbers in particular.”
The Board of Regents released fall enrollment numbers for each of its six universities Tuesday. SDSU’s 12,583 enrollment is highlighted by 2,224 incoming freshmen and 739 transfer students. The number of new freshmen remains within the university’s strategic comfort enrollment range of 2,200 to 2,300 first-time, first-year students for the third consecutive fall.
Undergraduate student retention from freshman to sophomore year grew to 75 percent, up 1.5 percentage points from last year's rate. The higher retention rate tracks with the university's goal of at least an 80 percent retention rate and at least a 60 percent graduation rate to be achieved through the comprehensive Model for Student Success.
“The enrollment report is a snapshot of where the university stands right now for undergraduate and graduate enrollment,” Chicoine said.
“It reflects the impacts of a 10 percent state budget cut prior to the previous academic year and the recession-driven spike in graduate student enrollment. University leaders are continuing to align available resources to best serve students, to realize opportunities and to fulfill our mission as the state’s land-grant research, teaching and service university.”
Chicoine said the decline in graduate school enrollment is due in part to the reduction in tenure-line faculty positions associated with last year’s budget cuts, an above-normal number of faculty retirements and resignations, and limitations in federal research grants.
“These impacts affect South Dakota State beyond a single fiscal year,” Chicoine said. “As expected, Ph.D. enrollment held up better than master’s enrollment.”
Chicoine said he expects to reverse the slight drop in graduate student enrollment and to continue to advance the research program of the university with the hiring of new faculty this year and next year.
South Dakota State broadened its global outreach with 470 international students enrolled this fall, including 43 incoming freshmen and 25 international transfer students, both up significantly from last year. Students are enrolled from all 50 states (63 percent of all students are from South Dakota) and from 72 countries.
The number of students enrolled in pharmacy and nursing professional practice programs increased to 407 students, up 10 percent for the second consecutive year. The growth of the pharmacy program can be attributed to continuing planned expansion, while the growth in nursing includes students in the doctor of nursing practice program.
“Key goals accomplished this year for undergraduate students include an increase in retention from first- to second-year students, enrolling a freshman class within the 2,200 to 2,300 target range, and an increase in the number of transfer students and international undergraduate students,” Chicoine said.
“The programs initiated to support the undergraduate experience are increasing freshman-to-sophomore retention and are putting students in positions to graduate on time.”
Residential life facilities for freshmen and sophomores continue to exceed 100 percent of capacity.
The completion of the Jackrabbit Grove will add 800 beds to the southeast campus freshman/sophomore neighborhood in fall 2013 and will match the number of available beds with the number of freshman and sophomore students required to live on campus.