SDSU approaches 11,000 in record enrollment

Heather Mangan

Heather Mangan

SDSU’s enrollment increased by nearly 400 students this school year according to figures released earlier this month by the Board of Regents, which has left some students questioning whether the campus is overcrowded.

“The thing I’m worried about is parking (and) the whole dorm situation,” said Michelle Westerbur, a junior park management major from Pipestone, Minn.

SDSU enrollment has increased the last two years in a row. It increased by 3.7 percent this year and 6.1 percent last year – a total of over 1,000 students.

Student Association President Amanda Mattingly said the enrollment increase makes the university cozy, but not crowded.

“You definitely can tell there are more students, but the university is working hard to accommodate,” she said.

An increase of transfer students and incoming freshmen is one factor that contributed to the 10,954 students now enrolled, said Mike Reger, vice president of administrative services.

Is SDSU crowded?

For the second year in a row, SDSU has reached record enrollment. Has the university met its capacity? President Peggy Gordon Miller doesn’t think so.

“We think we have a good number of students now,” she said. “There is no magic number as to how many is too few or how many is too many. We watch the enrollments in the various majors to see if there is still space in good programs.”

Elizabeth Fox, head of the parking committee, said the committee hasn’t decided yet if something needs be done based on the new enrollment number, but UPD Police Chief Tim Heaton said he doesn’t believe parking is anymore of problem this year than in years before.

More than 300 parking places were added, giving the campus a total of 6,407 parking slots this year. The UPD has sold 6,753 decals and 66 stickers, Fox said.

The university has also made some changes in the residence halls to accommodate more students. Dean of Student Affairs Marysz Rames said last year students lived in the dayrooms of the residence halls and many sophomores lived off-campus.

This year, the university opened Bailey Hall for sophomores, more of the dayrooms are open now and fewer sophomores are living off-campus, she said.

“We were more liberal last year (in letting more sophomores live off campus), but we are not doing that this year,” Rames said.

The residence hall situation will improve next year when the new hall is opened, Rames said. Then, Bailey will again be limited to only junior and seniors.

Some students said these changes should have been made earlier.

“I think they should have anticipated this growth,” said junior English major Sheana Eggers from Yankton.

Quality or quantity?

SDSU and USD were the only two schools to have increased enrollment, but both schools said they aren’t just taking anybody.

During a press conference with Board of Regents, USD President Jim Abbott announced that 40 percent of USD’s student body has an ACT of 24 and above. Abbott said that the university is making it a goal to recruit good students.

So is SDSU, said Miller.

“Our ACT scores above 24 have increased by 70 percent over the last four years,” she said. “The numbers of students attending SDSU have increased, but even more importantly the quality of our incoming students has increased dramatically.”

A new state scholarship has also improved SDSU’s quality, Miller said. The South Dakota Opportunity Scholarships were given to South Dakota high school graduates who completed vigorous curriculum and had high ACT scores.

“Essentially, the scholarships are for the brightest and best South Dakota graduates who want to go to school at a university in the state,” she said.

The state gave out 678 scholarships this year and 354 of those recipients chose to attend SDSU, Miller said.

“It is the best of all worlds to be attracting better and more students,” Miller said. “We are attracting the brightest and the best.”

Dean of Student Affairs Marysz Rames said students are selecting SDSU because of its variety of academic programs.

“Students know we are going to work with them and help them be successful,” she said.

Why the decrease?

Although SDSU and USD grew, three South Dakota universities had decreases in enrollment this year. But BHSU, DSU, NSU and SDSM&T had decreases in enrollment and DSU’s enrollment stayed the same.

Tad Perry, executive director of the state Board of Regents, said this was a plateau year.

“Overall, the regents are very pleased with the enrollment at the universities,” he said. “While growth is always appreciated, considering South Dakota’s decrease in high school graduates, a hold on enrollment is progressive.”

But why? South Dakota School of Mines and Technology President Charles Ruch said that one of the reasons he believed the school decreased by 4.4 percent was because of its location.

“The demographics within South Dakota, indeed much of the Midwest, continue to show a decline, and all projections indicate this outflow of populations to other regions will continue into the foreseeable future,” he said. “As a result, there are fewer South Dakota high school students with whom we can build out enrollment.”

Northern State University was hit hardest by lack of enrollment with a 12.6 percent decrease. Brenda Dreyer, director of university relations, said she thinks it is related to the decrease in the number of high school graduates.

“We think our numbers are similar to the trend across the country,” she said.

The university is no longer counting high school students who take online courses in its enrollment numbers, which also contributed to the decrease, Dreyer said. To comply with Board of Regents regulation, they can’t include those students because they don’t pay tuition.

Northern started a program in August called Margin of Excellence that should help enrollment numbers, Dreyer said. The program has faculty taking in-depth looks at the university’s programs and finding ways to expand and enhance them. Dreyer said the program will allow faculty to create better quality programs, which could increase enrollment in years to come.

“I think it will really help us identify what we are here for,” she said.

#1.885845:4094092209.jpg:crowded080.jpg:Students fill the hallways of the Rotunda. Some argue the university´s record enrollment has the campus too crowded, but others feel it´s in its prime.:Jerry Smith