Breaking down the enrollment numbers
The official enrollment rates have been announced and while the overall enrollment has dropped, the first-year enrollment rates are at 2,307 students which is a 4% increase from last year’s 2,218 first-year students. This marks the “largest increase in several years,” as North Dakota State University President Dean Bresciani said in his campus update email sent out last week.
Though first-year enrollment went up, the overall enrollment was lower this year at 12,846 students compared to last year’s enrollment of 13,173 students. NDSU has seen a steady decrease in overall enrollment throughout the years after it peaked in 2014 with 14,747 students.
In his email, Bresciani discussed four factors that interfere with enrollment. This includes national demographic problems, the pandemic and the uncertainty that comes with it, the recent national enrollment ‘slump’ and increased graduation rates which Bresciani said, “helps our students and mission but negatively impacts our enrollment.”
The number of graduates every year has increased by 35.3% since 2011 with 3,187 students graduating in the 2019-2020 school year.
Bresciani remained hopeful in his email adding, “Despite these difficulties, it appears that we’re headed in the right direction for enrollment, but the future will continue to be extremely difficult and uncertain.”
As for recruitment, Bresciani said that everyone at NDSU has a role in recruiting students. “The best way for us to recruit new students is to take care of our current students with an excellent education and experience.”
Laura Oster-Aaland, the Vice Provost for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, talked about the first-year enrollment rates and how the pandemic might have impacted the numbers.
“It is difficult to predict how enrollment may have been different without the pandemic,” Oster-Aaland said. “It’s possible that our numbers could have been higher; however, NDSU’s HyFlex model gave students the opportunity to choose whether or not to attend in-person or virtually.”
This semester there’s currently 383 undergraduate and 198 graduate students enrolled exclusively in distance ed courses. 5,415 undergraduate and 270 graduate students are enrolled in a mix of both online and in-person classes.
One factor that helped first-year enrollment was the mobile-friendly application and application fee waiver NDSU implemented last year. Oster-Aaland said that NDSU will continue to waiver the application fees in the future adding, “We believe it is important to remove obstacles that may prevent students from applying.”
As prospect students can start applying for fall 2021 now, NDSU has also waived the ACT test score requirement of the application since students may not be able to take the test because of testing site limitations.
Whether Oster-Aaland thinks the first-year enrollment will continue to increase next year, she also mentioned how uncertain the future is. “Each year is a unique opportunity. We recruit vigorously for students who can be successful here because our state and region need the caliber of graduates we provide to the workforce.”
Across the state, other universities are seeing differences in enrollment rates this year as well. The University of North Dakota has an overall enrollment rate of 13,615 students this year compared to 13,581 students enrolled last year.
Dickinson State University has also seen an increase in enrollment by 7%. The total number of new students at DSU this year is 425 students compared to last year’s 381 enrolled students.