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Near record first-year class, retention drives SDSU enrollment up

A view from the Coughlin Campanile overlooking the SDSU campus.

A near-record class of first-time students and record retention from students’ freshmen to sophomore year increased South Dakota State University’s enrollment to its highest number in five years.

Figures released by the South Dakota Board of Regents today shows total enrollment for fall 2023 at South Dakota’s largest and most comprehensive university at 11,505—the largest enrollment since 2019, when 11,518 students attended SDSU.

The total enrollment includes a first-year class of 2,275 students, the third largest to enroll in SDSU history, and a record retention of 83%.

“Our students continue to make SDSU the university of choice to pursue their academic dreams and eventually move into careers that positively impact our communities and make society better for everyone,” SDSU President Barry Dunn said. “We are very excited about having the third-largest class of first-year students ever at SDSU, and to surpass an 80% retention rate for the third time in four years is amazing.”

The 2,275 first-year student class only trails the 2,306 students who enrolled at SDSU in 2013 and the class of 2,282 students in 2014. The 83% retention rate surpasses the previous record of 81% in 2020 and 80% in 2021 and is reflected by the growth of the Wintrode Student Success and Opportunity Center on campus that provides critical resources to student success.

“Retention is a critical metric that not only impacts enrollment but is also an indicator of academic quality and student success on a campus,” Dunn said. “As a land-grant university that provides access to higher education for the citizens of our state, surpassing the 80% mark for the third time in four years and setting a new standard at 83% is an achievement that is celebrated by everyone on campus. We are very pleased that so many students understand the value and quality experience they receive by attending SDSU and from the services we have in place to make them successful.”

Just over 50% of the first-year student class is from South Dakota with 1,152 enrolled, an increase of nearly 5% from last year and a growth of over 16% from the state the past two years. First-year students from Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska continue to be the next three highest states to enroll as Jackrabbits. Students from Nebraska showed the greatest increase with a growth of more than 9% from the previous year.

The enrollment increase also led to a rise in credit hours to 136,834—up 2,048 total hours from the year before. International student enrollment also increased to 702 students from 621, and Graduate School enrollment is at 1,243 students.

“We are starting to stabilize some critical areas of campus in terms of enrollment, especially with the Graduate School and international students,” Dunn said. “It has taken time to understand the impact the pandemic had on those students, but students from around the world are interested in coming to Brookings. We are also adding important Graduate School programs that will continue to attract more students seeking advanced degrees and who want to conduct cutting-edge research on our campus.”

The number of high school students taking courses from SDSU, including dual credit courses, increased by 128 for a total of 1,031.



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