SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — After four years of decline, education officials celebrated system-wide gains for headcount enrollment in South Dakota’s six public higher-education universities. 

The fall 2022 headcount enrollment was announced at 33,690 students, a .7% increase from 33,455 students in 2021. The highest enrollment number has been 36,662 students in 2017. You can see a breakdown of enrollment by universities in the graphs below compared to the 2021 numbers. 

The Board of Regents reported 5,208 first-time freshman students which was a 6.3% increase. 

Dr. Brian Maher, the executive director for the BOR, said he saw “good news” with the latest enrollment report. He also noted South Dakota has seen a slight increase in the number of high school graduates as well. 

“Getting students to our campus is No. 1,” Maher said. “Once we get them on campus, how can we make sure they stay there?”

Maher stressed the BOR is focused on affordability and the BOR’s state top legislative priority is a tuition freeze for the 2023-2024 school year. He said it was hard to put into numbers how much he believed the tuition freeze helped enrollment this year. 

“Affordability, we know, impacts the numbers in terms of enrollment,” Maher said. “This is really the second year tuition has been flat. We’re really making an impact on affordability.” 

The school that saw the biggest group was the University of South Dakota, which saw a 4.1% enrollment increase this year. USD president Sheila Gestring said USD has had one of its largest incoming classes. 

She said USD dealt with a housing challenge because of so many students. She said the school had to turn away 20 international graduate students because they could not find housing in Vermillion. 

She said the Vermillion community worked hard to try and find space but the international students were behind in the process because they had to wait until the visa process was approved to say they’d come to Vermillion.

She noted the dorms have used all the lounges for temporary space to house students. Gestring said there’s pros and cons for that but students typically don’t mind it because they get a stove in their room.

Black Hills State University had the lowest decline for total headcount, down 3.2%.  BHSU president Laurie Nichols said the university has two smaller cohorts working through the system. She was encouraged the first-year enrollment was on par with the BOR system.  

Gestring said USD saw growth in its computer science program and programs related to Health Science. USD opened a new Health Science building on campus this fall. 

South Dakota State University had the highest enrollment with 11,331 and SDSU president Barry Dunn said growth continued in the animal science department along with other areas of agriculture. 

Dakota State University president José-Marie Griffiths said DSU’s cyber security programs continue to attract large numbers.