Promote academic excellence through quality programs, engaged learners and an innovative teaching and learning environment.
The responsibility of any university is to meet the academic needs of its students and ensure graduates are prepared for the future and possess the education and tools to impact society. This starts with not only enrolling the right number of first-year students, but also creating an inclusive, diverse population of students and faculty that better serves our university.
Overall enrollment at South Dakota State University remained relatively flat during IMPACT 2018, falling short of its goal to grow to just over 14,000 students and having more than 81 percent on the Brookings campus.
The FY2018 enrollment, the final year of the plan, was 12,527 with more than 83 percent of those students being on campus. Retention increased from 75 percent in the first year to 77.2 percent in 2018 but did not reach the target of 80 percent.
Three external forces played a major role in enrollment during IMPACT 2018. First, the fact that there was a strong U.S. economy meant more jobs and fewer people seeking to advance their education. Second, the South Dakota Board of Regents reduced the number of credits needed to graduate from 128 to 120, thus reducing the number of credit hours and time spent in college. Finally, the increase of high school juniors and seniors taking dual-credit classes resulted in more students coming to campus with college-level credits, requiring fewer on-campus semesters to graduate.
It was clear the formula for determining an overall enrollment goal for Imagine 2023 needed to change.
Enrollment management is a strategic endeavor that requires its own planning and implementation process. In fall 2018, the university’s first, five-year, strategic enrollment management plan was launched. The plan emphasizes enrollment growth through effective student recruitment, retention and success initiatives consistent with Imagine 2023.
The plan identified five key themes and strategies—promotion, fiscal health and financial aid, quality academic programs and experiences, student success and diversity. As part of the process, each college conducted a qualitative and quantitative enrollment forecast based on national and institutional research and potential for academic program growth.
Several factors can impact a university’s enrollment, but retention plays a critical role in maintaining stability in the number of students for any university. IMPACT 2018 set a goal of 80 percent retention, which is measured by the number of first-time, full-time students returning from their freshman year to their sophomore year. The retention baseline for IMPACT 2018 in its first year was 75 percent. The final year of the plan grew to 77.2 percent.
High retention throughout all classes also ensures strong graduating classes. IMPACT 2018 set a target of 2,256 graduates per year with 1,834 undergraduates earning degrees. The final year of the plan produced 2,569 total graduates with 2,053 of those undergraduates.
During the five-year period of IMPACT 2018, university leadership continued to implement its student success model launched in 2015 that included:
- Acclimation to South Dakota State University in Year 1;
- Promotion and persistence to graduation in Years 2 and 3;
- Activities to provide students a pathway to finish and achieve success beyond graduation in Year 4.
The impact of the student success model played an important role in increased retention and graduation. Lowering graduation requirements, while increasing the number of dual credits taken, also helped increase graduation numbers by shortening the time to a degree. Imagine 2023 has also set a retention goal of 80 percent.
Diversity and Inclusion
Another critical area of IMPACT 2018 that supported enrollment, student success and overall strength of the university was in the number of underrepresented students enrolled. A diverse and inclusive university provides a campus community greater opportunities for engagement, learning and a better understanding of culture. Underrepresented students in this case are classified by meeting three or more of the following criteria:
- First-generation student;
- Less than 50 percent of financial need met;
- ACT of 19 or lower;
- Veteran; and
- Student with disability.
The baseline in year one of the plan was 1,416 students, which was surpassed in the final year with 1,663 students.
Several initiatives to promote diversity and inclusion, as well as grow the number of underrepresented students, were introduced or enhanced during IMPACT 2018. Some of these included:
- International student orientation;
- Numerous international nights to celebrate heritage and culture;
- Heritage month celebrations that included women’s history month, black history month and Hispanic heritage month;
- Diversity workshops and trainings in addition to town hall meetings;
- Additional recruitment and retention efforts to include a coordinator of multicultural Latino retention adviser and Native American recruitment coordinator;
- The Common Read focusing on topics of social justice, equality and inclusion three times during the plan;
- Implementation of an annual student summit on diversity and inclusion to engage student leaders around topics of becoming global citizens; and
- Inclusion of all undergraduate academic programs to include diversity and inclusion as one of five mandatory cross-curricular skills.