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DSU making enrollment-based changes

Press Photo by Bryan Horwath Dickinson State University sophomore Dalton Kuhn walks to DeLong Hall, the residence hall where he lives, late Wednesday afternoon. Though Kuhn said the change won’t affect him and his roommate, plans are for two floors of the hall to be closed beginning next month because of DSU’s dwindling enrollment numbers.

Low enrollment figures at Dickinson State University have led to the implementation of a number of downsizing measures on campus, a school spokesperson said Wednesday.

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In addition to a change in operations at the main campus cafeteria in the Student Center — which is now only used for special occasions — DSU director of enrollment services and communications Marie Moe said several floors in the school’s three residence halls will be shut down for the beginning of spring semester next month.

“We’ll be closing two floors in DeLong Hall and one floor each in Selke Hall and Woods Hall,” Moe said. “Those changes will start in January and they’re basically happening because of our student enrollment numbers, and the fact that we want students to have that college residential hall experience. That experience includes having roommates.”

Moe reported that 233 students are living in DSU residence halls for the fall 2013 semester, representing less than half the capacity of 550 available living quarters. Because of the available space, some students had been living alone in two-person dorm rooms on campus and one DSU student said Wednesday that not everyone is happy about the planned changes.

“It doesn’t really affect me because I already had a roommate,” said Dalton Kuhn, a sophomore environmental science major and DeLong. “But I know there are some residents who are upset. We were told that some people were going to have to consolidate because of the enrollment numbers.”

Korean exchange student Minjung Kim, who lives in DeLong, said residents have been informed that the top two floors of the six-story residence hall will be closed off.

“Most of my friends don’t like it,” Kim said. “What I’m worried about most is the laundry situation.”

In addition to what she called the enhancement of students’ “campus life environment,” Moe said the university will also be saving money and energy costs when the halls are closed down.

In October, DSU reported an official head count of 1,449 students enrolled and only about 16 percent of enrolled students at the university are living on campus.

“It’s a numbers thing,” Moe said. “You can see by looking at the numbers that our residence halls are about half full. The concern that I’ve heard from students about the closing of the floors is the fact that the consolidation is going to happen mid-year. Looking at what’s happening in the halls and the desire to provide that campus experience, the administration believed it was the best thing.

It’s a change, but not all change is a bad thing. Also, most of the students are paying for double rooms already, so this keeps the housing in line with the pricing structure.”

Moe said the switch to close the main cafeteria in favor of having students eat in the smaller dining area on the first floor of the Student Center was also a decision based on numbers. Moe added that the decision — which she said was made jointly by DSU and campus food service provider Sodexho — has been largely embraced by students.

“By consolidating, the Sodexho folks can now staff the lower-level cafeteria from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m.,” Moe said. “While the other cafeteria was open, the smaller dining area was only open for five hours per day, three times per day. This was also a numbers-based decision, but it had to do with staffing and keeping the food service area open longer for students such as our rodeo students, who would get out of practice in the past and find the food service area closed. This allows students to take advantage of the food service over a wider variety of hours.”

With DSU’s total student enrollment down more than 40 percent in three years, The university is attempting to regain some of that lost market share on the heels of the announcement by the Higher Learning Commission that the school’s accreditation was taken off “on notice” status earlier this fall.

Part of DSU’s plan moving forward involves the retention of David Black, an educational marketing and enrollment management coach with East Coast-based consulting firm Paskill Stapleton & Lord. Black began his work with DSU in October and provided an update of his work to a group of about 50 university administrators, staff and students Wednesday in the Student Center ballroom.

“We have a bit of a public relations challenge in front of us, both internally and externally,” Black told the group. “Public relations isn’t just about press releases. It’s about how people come to know (DSU). What is the understanding people have about DSU’s vision and future? I think there is an opportunity to go out into the marketplace and really help people understand what that vision is. It takes a very deliberate effort to build back an image and to enhance a reputation. The past is the past.”

Black added that the robust western North Dakota economy — which he said surprised him upon his arrival — provides certain challenges to recruiting new students but also offers unique opportunities to market to people new to the area, people who may not be familiar with DSU.

Moe said DSU is paying Black $4,000 per month (plus travel expenses) for his services, which have been retained through June.

Bryan Horwath
A Wisconsin native, Horwath has been covering news in the Oil Patch of North Dakota since 2012. Horwath currently serves as the senior agriculture and political reporter for The Dickinson Press and, despite the team's tendency to always let him down, remains a diehard Minnesota Vikings fan.
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