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Record retention, domestic student enrollment stabilizes SDSU’s headcount

Figures released today by the South Dakota Board of Regents showed enrollment at South Dakota State University to be 11,405 students. Domestic student enrollment was level from fall 2019 at 10,799 students and the university set a record retention rate of students retained from their freshman to sophomore year at 81%—an increase of 2.7 percentage points from 2019.

SDSU President Barry Dunn
SDSU President Barry Dunn

“Overall we are pleased with this year’s enrollment numbers given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the challenges it has created for everyone,” said SDSU President Barry Dunn. “We saw a tremendous response from students in South Dakota and the region who wanted an on-campus learning environment. The 81% retention rate is an important metric of the university’s overall performance to ensure student success and keep them on pace toward graduation and receiving the benefits of a four-year degree.”

SDSU continues to see an upward trend in four-year and six-year graduation rates with 1,550 degrees conferred in May. The university also graduated its largest class in 2019 with 2,523 students receiving degrees.

“The trend toward faster degree completion is very positive,” Dunn said. “The number of students who come to SDSU with college credits continues to increase, reducing their financial investment to obtain a degree and enter the workforce.”

The Jackrabbit Access College Early First Bank & Trust Scholarship program that launched during the start of the pandemic in March attracted 38 students. The program is available to qualified high school juniors and seniors from low-income families. The scholarship funds one dual credit course each semester of the student’s junior and senior year of high school. Overall, the number of dual credit SDSU students increased by 65 to 609.

The university’s overall enrollment of 11,405 students is down 113 students from last year’s total of 11,518, a decrease of approximately 1%. The decrease reflected the drop in international student enrollment from 719 to 606.

According to SDSU’s Office of International Affairs, many students who planned to return to SDSU were unable to obtain the necessary documentation to travel to the United States during the pandemic.

“We understand the challenges the pandemic created for international students who wanted to be in Brookings for the fall semester,” Dunn said. “We continue to communicate with them and work to find ways for them to attend SDSU in the future.”

The Office of International Affairs also launched its Global Start campaign, an online program to start international students attending classes in their home countries. Thirty-six students enrolled in the program and look forward to coming to SDSU in the future.

An important increase in enrollment numbers came from first-time, full-time students from South Dakota. The overall student count is 1,109 South Dakotans, which is an increase of 81 from last year.

“We are very pleased to see an increase in the number of South Dakota high school graduates who chose to make SDSU their home,” Dunn said. “We have worked very hard to continue to recruit and retain the students of our great state and provide them with a world-class education that prepares them to make a difference in their communities, the region and beyond.”

Overall, the total number of freshmen is 2,088 students, a slight decrease from last year’s 2,123. Domestic freshman numbers totaled 2,068.

“Before the pandemic started, we were trending toward an increase in our overall freshman class from the previous year,” Dunn said. “The past several months have impacted students and their families in many ways. We have maintained communications with those students who continue to consider SDSU in their future.”

The 81% retention rate surpasses the 80% goal set forth in Imagine 2023, the university’s five-year strategic plan. This year’s retention rate surpasses the previous high of 78.6% established in fall 2016.

“Everyone at the university has a role in retaining our students, from the time they arrive on campus until they graduate” Dunn said. “As a university we have worked very hard to identify opportunities and create the programs that support students on their academic journeys. It required a great deal of work by our academic advisors, faculty and many other support units to reach this goal and we are very proud to have surpassed it.”