SDSU sets new record for enrolled freshmen

Marcus Traxler Editor-in-Chief

With an increase of 3.7 percent over last year, the 2,306 first-year students to enroll at SDSU is a new record, university officials announced Sept. 23. 

The new high, which is 82 more than the 2,224 that were enrolled in fall 2012 is good news for SDSU officials, who hope to bring in 2,200 to 2,300 new first-year students each year.

The annual announcement from the Board of Regents also brought good news on retention rates, where SDSU has reached an all-time high of 78.7 percent. The retention rate statistic – the figure that calculates the number of first-year students who have returned for a second year at SDSU – is up 5.2 percent, better than the 73.5 percent in 2011. 

“This is very important because we came out of what I would term as a recession-driven low retention rate of 73 percent two years ago,” SDSU President David Chicoine said. “So this is very good news and it puts us on a pathway to graduate 2,700 degree students by the end of our planning period.”

The president said the stat is a key indicator that the university is on track to have an 80 percent retention rate by 2018.

SDSU’s official enrollment is down for the third straight year, checking in officially at 12,554 students. That number is down 29 students from last year but Chicoine attributed the slight drop to part-time non-degree seeking students who have decided not to take the one or two classes they had previously. 

SDSU’s full-time equivalent statistic, which figures how many students are taking an average of 15 credits per semester and will be on track to graduate, is up 0.66 percent from a year ago. That’s a trend through the public university system as a whole, according to BOR CEO Jack Warner. 

“The data shows that we might have slightly fewer students but they’re taking a larger course load,” Warner said, adding that those students usually are more likely to graduate than students who take the average number of credits per semester.

Fifty-eight percent of the SDSU’s students are from South Dakota. SDSU has students from all 50 states and from 70 countries around the world and added 160 new international students this fall, including 52 freshmen and 23 international students.

Overall, the six South Dakota public universities (Black Hills State, Dakota State, Northern State, S.D. School of Mines and Technology, SDSU and USD) enrolled 36,365 students, down from 36,430 in fall 2012. The BOR system announced last week that its percentage of degree earning students has gone up 33 percent since 2005, something Warner is particularly proud of.

“At the end of the day, the number of graduates that we produce is the really important number because it helps South Dakota improve its educational attainment rate and it fuels the workforce and the economic development prospects of the state,” he said.