NSU retention rate climbs to 77 percent as enrollment rises

Students walking on campus

ABERDEEN, S.D. – Student retention continues to increase at Northern State University, with the university’s freshmen to sophomore retention rate climbing to 77 percent this fall after a significant increase last year.

Also trending upward is Northern’s headcount—the fall 2017 number is 3,611, an increase from 3,587 in fall 2016, according to figures released Wednesday from the South Dakota Board of Regents. That includes an undergraduate headcount of 3,162 students, an increase over 3,075 in fall 2016. The number of full-time equivalent students, both undergraduate and graduate, remained relatively unchanged, with 1,931 in 2017 and 1,953 in 2016.

“We’re pleased with this fall’s enrollment figures. There are many positive trends and our commitment to student success, shown through retention, is exciting to see come to fruition,” said NSU President Dr. Timothy Downs. “With new campus leaders in enrollment as well as marketing, we have high aspirations. We want to continue growing.”

NSU’s 2017 retention rate of 77 percent follows a large increase last year, when the retention rate for new first-time, bachelor’s degree seeking students jumped to its highest level in more than 15 years (74 percent).

NSU Vice President of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs Dr. Jeremy Reed said student success is an all-out effort that includes faculty, staff, current students and the community.

“We pride ourselves on student success—it’s a part of our Northern Way culture,” Reed said. “Moving forward, as part of our strategic recruitment plan, we’ll remain focused on overall student headcount, but we want to see more students here on campus and around Aberdeen.”

Housing, E-learning Numbers Increase

On-campus housing numbers have also taken a positive turn, said NSU Director of Residence Life Marty Sabolo, with 650 students living on campus this fall compared to 606 last fall. Sabolo said that can primarily be attributed to new housing options on campus and a concerted effort by NSU to improve housing programs offered on campus.

“As our on-campus housing numbers show, students are drawn to our new housing option, Wolves Memorial Suites,” Downs said. “This should only improve with two new residence halls currently under construction.”

One area that saw significant student growth for NSU is the Center for Statewide E-learning, which has just more than 2,000 students this fall, including 1,755 students in traditional high school courses, up from 1,137 last year. That number also includes 264 students enrolled in NSU’s dual-credit program, which allows South Dakota high school juniors and seniors to take college-level classes and receive both college and high school credit.

Before the state-funded e-learning center expansion two years ago, the center had 843 students in 16 high school courses. To date, that expansion has added 10 new master teachers, 10 new DDN studios and 25 new high school courses.

“The NSU E-learning expansion has more than doubled traditional high school course registrations in two years,” said E-learning High School Principal Mary Cundy.

Statewide Numbers

Statewide, fall enrollment at South Dakota’s six public universities increased slightly compared to last year, up a third of one percent, the Board of Regents reported Wednesday. Headcount enrollment was up by 131 students across the entire system.

Total headcount at the six public universities was 36,662, an increase of 0.36 percent over last year. The number of FTE students for the fall 2017 term—based on total credit hours generated by all students within the regents’ system—also increased. FTE grew by 34 students to a total of 26,633.7, or 0.13 percent.

“Postsecondary education is very important for South Dakota and its economic well-being,” said Mike Rush, the regents’ executive director and CEO. “The state’s goal is to have 65 percent of 25- to 34-year-olds possess some type of postsecondary credential. The Board of Regents and the public universities are committed to meeting this significant goal.”

About Northern State University

Northern State University is a regional university that offers outstanding academics and exceptional extracurricular activities at an affordable price on a safe, welcoming campus. To learn more, visit NSU Admissions