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Four-year graduation rate, degrees conferred impacts SDSU enrollment

coughlin campanile

South Dakota State University conferred its second-highest number of degrees last year and saw four-year graduation rates increase 6%, factors that led to a decline in enrollment. Figures released today by the South Dakota Board of Regents showed enrollment at SDSU to be 11,518 students, a decrease of 4.9% from the previous year.

“It is a difficult balance to maintain in today’s higher education climate,” said President Barry Dunn. “On one side we are achieving the goals set forth by the South Dakota Board of Regents and the state of South Dakota to graduate students on time and with less college debt. On the other hand, as we get them into the workforce more quickly, it is impacting the overall enrollment picture of the university.”

In May SDSU conferred 2,833 baccalaureate degrees, 200 more than the previous year. This year’s incoming class of first-time freshmen at SDSU is 2,123, down 58 from the 2018 class but still competitive according to Dunn.

“While we experienced a decrease in the freshman class, we are still within a competitive range from previous years,” Dunn said. “We remain a school of choice for students, but many of these students are coming to SDSU with a significant number of college credits already taken. That allows them additional opportunities like earning a second major or minor, a study abroad experience or, in many cases, the opportunity to graduate early and begin a professional career. On time or early graduation is a key strategy to lowering the cost of higher education and managing student debt.”

Retention of students from their freshman year to their sophomore year increased by nearly 2% to 78.3%, near an all-time high at SDSU.

“We are very pleased with our retention rate and the impact our student success model is having on keeping students at SDSU and on track for graduation,” Dunn said. “Academic success will always be a priority and this is an indicator of that effort.”

High school dual credit, an indicator of students entering the university with college credits, continues to be strong. This year 578 high school students enrolled in dual credit courses from SDSU, a 72% increase from five years ago.

“Moving forward we will work to adjust our overall university budget to reflect the enrollment drop and continue to find efficiencies that still allow our students the opportunity for the academic excellence they expect,” Dunn said. “We continue to strengthen our brand and aggressively market our university throughout South Dakota and to a wider audience in new markets where students have shown interest in SDSU.”