Enrollment Rates Fall, First-Year Student Rates Rise

Graphic Courtesy | Cassy Tweed
NDSU enrollment rates fall for a sixth straight year

A pandemic may affect enrollment rates, but not first-year students at NDSU

Enrollment rates at universities around the country have been falling and North Dakota State University has followed the trend, or rather, been following the trend. The nationwide higher education enrollment rates peaked in 2011 and have been slowly, but steadily falling ever since. 

NDSU’s peak came in 2014 when 14,747 students were enrolled for that academic year. NDSU’s enrollment has been gradually falling, and by 2018, total student enrollment was at 13,796. The following year, NDSU’s enrollment for the first day of classes fell 4.5 percent to 13,173 in 2019.

For the start of the fall 2020 semester, in a year of uncertainties, NDSU’s first-day enrollment has fallen yet again to 12,712 students, a 3.3 percent decrease from the previous year. NDSU’s preliminary enrollment count has not dropped below 13,000 since 2007.

This year, however, NDSU has seen a four percent jump in first-year students with 2,328 compared to 2,240 students in 2019. The number of first-year students, as well as upperclassmen, may rise or fall throughout the semester or the year, so these numbers may change as more students enroll or drop out.

President Dean Bresciani says that the drop in student enrollment is less than he originally feared, and this year’s rise in first-year students gives him hope for the future. 

There are many possible reasons for this drop in enrollment rates at NDSU and across the country. Some of these factors include the financial burden of attending college and the student’s desire to taking classes in-person or online. With concern for the COVID-19 outbreak, some universities in Minnesota and other states have switched to completely online learning options amid the current pandemic in order to keep students, faculty and staff safe by encouraging them to stay home and practice social distancing. 

“Our students demanded a face-to-face experience. Our faculty prefer a face-to-face experience,” Bresciani said. 

NDSU plans to offer the best of both worlds this semester, with talk of continuing their new learning style option beyond the pandemic. NDSU received federal approval for a grant in order to implement a HyFlex Education Model. This model allows students to choose their learning option and either attend class in person or to attend remotely via online programs such as Zoom and Blackboard Collaborate Ultra.

“The HyFlex world is one where students and faculty that are vulnerable, in isolation or in quarantine, can still effectively teach, learn and be an active part of the NDSU community. We have heard the concerns of some faculty and students about returning to the classroom environment, and this model should help allay those concerns,” Bresciani said in an announcement. 

Bresciani hopes to accommodate all students this semester with the help of the HyFlex model, which offers the convenience and safety of online classes while still offering classes on campus for those who prefer this method.

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