For the second consecutive year, our university has managed to increase the number of students in the programs both on and off its Brookings campus. This time we broke the elusive five-digit mark, taking enrollment from 9,952 students to 10,561.
That 6.1 percent increase has all the other regential institutions in the state outstripped and some of them trying to justify their less impressive growth.
Just observe Jim Abbott squirm his way through an explanation of USD’s nine percent enrollment drop by citing a statistical anomaly that, when taken out, would show a 3.3 percent increase. Listen to him assert that USD is looking for a smarter, rather than larger, student body .
This focus on the elite fails to recognize that average students pay the same bills as those who fit USD’s “brighter” ideal. Additionally, part of a state university’s job is to serve all qualified students, not just those that managed to spit out an ACT score above 28.
But, all comparisons with our misguided neighbors to the south aside, SDSU has its own areas of concern that need a bit more honest reflection than they appear to be getting.
President Peggy Miller has been quoted in local media saying SDSU isn’t at a point where it’s concerned about the number of students because there are enough classrooms and beds. However, if it is not concerned about these matters and searching for ways to adapt to more students, this university risks being caught severely off guard.
For while there are many benefits to having over 10,000 students wandering the sidewalks and logging onto the computer networks of South Dakota State, there are also things we should be concerned about, chief among them the space needed to instruct, house and support a five-digit enrollment.
So, while we applaud the work SDSU has done to bring in more students and the optimism it has for future years, we also encourage a more open discussion of the challenges involved in sustaining the state’s highest enrollment.
It may be lonely at the top, but fear of criticism – both from other universities unable to share our success and from those less optimistic about SDSU’s upward trend – cannot be allowed to hinder honest self-assessment as we move forward.
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