Factors behind enrollment decline at SDSU

Local News

BROOKINGS, S.D. (KELO) — Enrollment at South Dakota’s six public universities is declining.

A Board of Regents report released Friday shows the steepest declines at Black Hills State, the School of Mines and South Dakota State for head counts compared to fall of 2018.

Sadie Jenness is settling into South Dakota State University.

“Very nice. It’s homey,” Sadie Jenness said.

The freshman is studying family and consumer sciences education.

“I like to cook and I like to sew, so it just made sense for me,” Jenness said.

But she entered the university with a smaller student body than in the fall of 2018.

Vice President for Student Affairs Michaela Willis says there are a number of reasons for the trend.

“One of those factors is really about our graduation rate and increasing the number of students that are graduating on time, which also ends up saving those students money so that’s a really good thing, but it does end up impacting our overall enrollment,” Vice President for Student Affairs Michaela Willis said.

Willis says the university has also seen a decrease in international students.

“It’s a little bit more difficult to come to the U.S. to study higher education right now from foreign countries,” Willis said.

Willis says over the past 10 years the school has also seen fewer Pell-eligible students.

“Many of them may see higher education as less of an option before. Part of that is because the State of South Dakota is one of the few states in the nation that doesn’t have a needs based grant program for students,” Willis said.

She says work is underway with leaders across the state to see if changes can be made.

The university is also working on its messaging to prospective students, which could bring more students like Jenness on board.

“It just feels right for me,” Jenness said.

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