MITCHELL, S.D. (KELO) — Three of South Dakota’s four technical colleges saw student numbers slip for the current semester.
Southeast Technical College was the exception. The Sioux Falls campus rose by 25 students to 2,478.
Western Dakota Technical College posted the largest decline. The Rapid City campus fell by 233 students from a year ago to 1,082 this fall.
Lake Area Technical College meanwhile reported a loss of 59 students, taking the Watertown campus to 2,179.
Mitchell Technical College posted a loss of 58, putting it at 1,176.
The combined head count of 6,915 was a drop of 325 from a year ago. The total enrollment was the lowest in the past five years but fifth-best in the past 15 years.
The numbers were presented Thursday to the state Board of Technical Education.
The campuses are working toward producing 3,001 credential completers annually, starting in 2030. They averaged 2,434 the past five years.
The campuses’ various new priorities will be presented to the board for approval in December.
The board’s deputy director, Scott DesLauriers, attributed the enrollment declines to fewer high school students taking dual-credit courses and to South Dakota’s “really healthy” economy.
“We all know there’s a really high demand in the workforce,” board member Terry Sabers of Mitchell said.
Dual-credit student numbers for the four tech colleges fell 172 overall to 1,174.
That included a 194-student drop for dual-credit courses at Western Dakota, which DesLauriers said coincided with a payment change by the Rapid City school district.
Without dual-credit and concurrent-credit students, enrollment this fall would be 5,741. That is the smallest since dual-credit became available at the tech campuses in fall 2014.