DSU sets 5 year enrollment record as NDSU declines

Nationally, college enrollment declined by 600,000 students last fall. Undergraduate students accounted for the entirety of that decline, as the number of graduate students increased by 4.6% in that period. National figures for this fall are not available yet, but Dickinson State University is likely more indicative of the nationwide trend as Americans return to some normalcy post-pandemic.

The fall freshman class at Dickinson State University of 269 students continues the upward trend in enrollment. This is a 10% increase over last year’s 244 first-year students. (Dickinson Press File Photo)

According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, national collegiate enrollment numbers are down 4.9% for undergraduates, the lowest in more than a decade. In North Dakota, North Dakota State University reported the lowest enrollment in more than 15 years. Dickinson State University appears to be bucking the national trend of declining numbers, reporting Tuesday that their fall enrollment numbers are up by 10% — making this year’s incoming class the largest in five years.

The fall freshman class at DSU of 269 students continues the upward trend in enrollment seen at Dickinson State, with the 2021 numbers marking a 10% increase over last year’s 244 first-year students.

This comes as North Dakota State University in Fargo just saw its lowest fall enrollment in 15 years , with a 3.5% decline to 12,390 students. NDSU’s strongest enrollment occurred in 2014, with 14,747 students that year.

The number of full-time enrolled students at DSU increased by 2% to 990, up from last year’s total of 967. DSU’s residence halls are at near-capacity for the first time in several years as 298 students reside on campus.

“We are excited about the good news on enrollment. Bucking national trends, we increased the number of full-time students, the number of credits taken, the number of freshmen, and the number of students in our residence halls,” Steve Easton, Dickinson State University president, said. “The only category where we decreased was courses taken by high school students, but we expect that number to increase this spring as some of our high school partners have shifted dual credit courses from fall to spring. Thus, as we like to say at DSU, Hawks are up."


DSU students enrolled this fall comprise a diverse student body representing 35 states and more than 20 countries, with 64% indicating North Dakota residency and 2.5% indicating international residency. Enrollment of online students is up more than 18% from 730 in fall 2020 to 864 in fall 2021 with 298 exclusively online and 566 taking some, but not all, of their classes online. Nontraditional students, those over age 25, represent over 20% of enrollment.

Mark Jastorf, DSU’s vice president of Student Affairs and University Relations, said campus is getting back to normal.

“With COVID we are in a highly-recommended masks status. We have been since late summer. By policy we allow the faculty and our staff to have a mask requirement in their classrooms or their offices, that’s a matter of personal choice. But as an institution we are operating as close to normal now as we possibly can,” Jastorf said.

With a boost in students, Jastorf said he's pleased to see a bustling campus again.

“There’s a really strong buzz on campus. The students are on campus and active. Our residence halls are near capacity. People are very much enjoying and taking advantage of the Dickinson State experience in-person right now,” he said. “All the sporting events have occurred on schedule with no interruptions at this point. We’re getting ready to launch ‘You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,’ so we’ll have some theatrical and music productions coming up later this fall.”

Jason O’Day is a University of Iowa graduate, with Bachelor’s Degrees in Journalism and Political Science. Before moving to Dickinson in September of 2021, he was a general news reporter at the Creston News Advertiser in southwest Iowa. He was born and raised in Davenport, Iowa. With a passion for the outdoors and his Catholic faith, he’s loving life on the Western Edge. His reporting focuses on Stark County government and surrounding rural communities.
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