SDSU’s enrollment drops for second straight year

Nick Lowrey

Fall enrollment headcount figures at SDSU are down again for the second straight year in 2012, according to numbers released Sept. 25 by the South Dakota Board of Regents.

SDSU’s fall head count was 12,583, a mark 142 students lower than in 2011. Most of the loss was felt at the graduate level, with 127 of the 142 student decrease coming from graduate programs. The school lost only 15 undergraduate students.

Since peaking at 12,816 students in 2010, SDSU has seen enrollment drop by a total of 233 students over the past two years. Prior to 2010, enrollment had increased every year dating back to 2000.

There was also a drop in the number of full-time equivalent students at SDSU. In 2011, the university had 10,420 full-time students enrolled. In 2012, that number dropped 268 to 10,152.

The drop in enrollment comes on the heels of recession and a 10 percent budget cut in spring 2011. Those cuts, according to SDSU President David Chicoine, contributed to a decline in the number of faculty, who he said play an important role in graduate level programs.

“We had fewer faculty in our university this last year because of the reduction of state support, and the faculty are really important for the recruiting and mentoring of graduate students,” Chicoine said.

Chicoine also said that graduate student recruitment and retention actually increase during a recession. When the country begins to recover from a recession and more jobs become available, graduate schools tend to shrink slightly.

“The workforce opportunities are stronger for students with an undergraduate degree and they then choose perhaps to pursue a job opportunity as opposed to graduate school,” Chicoine said.

Most of the losses in the graduate school were at the master’s level. The bright spot, according to Chicoine, was SDSU’s PhD. program retention and recruitment. Despite graduating 40 PhD. students last year, SDSU’s PhD. enrollment remained relatively flat, something that isn’t always typical.

“I was really pleased that we held on our PhD. students because we graduated a significant number last year,” Chicoine said. “Usually PhD. enrollment is sort of cyclical you sort of reload, then you unload and then you reload.”

Overall undergraduate enrollment at SDSU and the entire regental system remained fairly flat. The six public universities governed by the BOR have a Fall 2012 head count of 36,430, up 327 over a year ago. Those numbers reflect a demographic trend occurring throughout the Midwest.

According to BOR Executive Director and CEO Jack Warner, the Midwest is seeing a slight decline in the population of high school graduates. Warner said that trend is likely to continue until 2018 and the result will likely be steady enrollment numbers until then.

“If you look at what the region will provide, it will provide fewer traditional students who tend to come to us full time. I would anticipate level enrollment over all,” Warner said.

Enrollment stability Warner said will be helped along by an increase in non-traditional and online students.