South Dakota Board of Regents reports 4 years of declining enrollment


Enrollment at South Dakota’s six public universities has dropped for the fourth consecutive year this fall, but by a smaller margin than seen last year.

The system saw a decline of 954 students in headcount last year, compared with a decline of 121 this year.

In an announcement Friday morning, the South Dakota Board of Regents considers this difference “largely unchanged” from last year, and Brian Maher, executive director and CEO, said the enrollment is “substantially flat.”

However, in the last two decades, an Argus Leader review of enrollment data from the Regents shows enrollment grew by nearly 10,000 students from 1999 to 2011. From 2011 to 2017, enrollment hovered above 36,000 and has declined each year since 2017.

Total headcount at the six public universities is 33,445 this year, compared to 34,566 last year.

A review of full-time equivalent (FTE) enrollment, which is based on total credit hours generated by all students in the regental system, shows a decline of 621 students from 2020, though. This year, FTE is at 23,964, compared to 24,586 in 2020.

“We still see impacts from the ongoing pandemic,” Maher said. “While we dedicated ourselves to offering a more normal higher education experience this fall, these are challenging times. Our public university system is prepared to meet that challenge head on, delivering South Dakota a well-educated workforce and engaged citizens.”

Here’s a look at how the universities stack up this fall.

South Dakota State University

2020 headcount: 11,405

2021 headcount: 11,465

Enrollment increased by 60 students at SDSU.

The university reports graduate student enrollment increased by more than 200 students, and retention of freshmen to sophomores remains high at 80%.

“We are certainly encouraged by the overall enrollment at SDSU this year and the fact we experienced an increase in headcount,” SDSU president Barry Dunn said. Retention is “a strong indication of the quality of education our students receive and the university’s efforts to ensure their success and keep them on track to graduate.”


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