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Enrollment numbers reliable, despite DSU controversy

FARGO -- As North Dakota University System campuses release preliminary enrollment numbers this week, officials say there's no reason to doubt the integrity of the figures.

The manipulation of enrollment numbers at Dickinson State University was an isolated case, said Michel Hillman, the system's vice chancellor for student and academic affairs.

"We did not find any evidence that any of the things that happened at Dickinson are happening on the other 10 campuses," Hillman said.

First-day enrollment at North Dakota State University is stable at 14,240 students, an increase of 36 students. NDSU President Dean Bresciani said in a statement the university did what it could to limit new student enrollment because of some legislators' concerns about NDSU's growth.

The University of North Dakota reported a first-day enrollment of 14,076 students, a 4.8 percent increase over this time last year.

At the North Dakota State College of Science, enrollment is 2,910 students, an 8.3 percent increase. Valley City State University reported this week a 10.3 percent enrollment increase for at total of 1,312 students.

All numbers are preliminary. The North Dakota University System will take a final tally during the fourth week of classes.

An internal audit accuses Dickinson State University President Richard McCallum of inflating the university's enrollment last fall by counting people who attended workshops as enrolled students.

In a letter firing McCallum, Chancellor Bill Goetz wrote that the improper enrollment reporting at Dickinson "has the potential to compromise the integrity" of enrollment reporting by the entire university system.

"We've worked hard to make enrollment reporting as clear and valid and reliable as possible," Hillman said.

The situation at Dickinson State only happened because someone at a high level directed that those policies be circumvented, Hillman said. McCallum is challenging his dismissal and awaiting a hearing.

Although officials are confident their policies work, they will ask the state Board of Higher Education to refine some policies at a September meeting, Hillman said.

"We learned a little bit as a result of this, and we want to make sure that it's crystal clear to everyone what the expectation is," Hillman said.

One new enrollment requirement this fall is to report the number of full-time students taking courses on campus. That's a directive from the Legislature.

House Majority Leader Al Carlson, R-Fargo, said legislators want to know how many students are taking classes on campus versus online to help them make decisions about campus facilities.

"We just want to get numbers as to how many are actually sitting in the seats," Carlson said.

Dalrymple is a reporter at The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.