Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, DSU's enrollment has increased 7% from the 2019-2020 academic year thanks to a number of new initiatives.
“It is an unprecedented time in the history of our world, and people are looking for opportunity for connection and community,” said DSU President Steve Easton. “The faculty and staff at DSU have worked hard to adapt courses to be available in several modalities. This is a good day for DSU. We are proud of our staff, faculty, and students for moving us in a positive direction.”
The university takes its official census in the fourth week of every academic year. This year, its total enrollment was up 91 students, from 1,350 students in the fall of 2019 to 1,441 students this fall.
Marie Moe, vice president for student affairs and university relations at DSU, considered why the university's enrollment numbers increased instead of decreased in reaction to the pandemic.
"We listened to our students in the spring when we had to go remote," she said. " ...What we heard from them is 'We want to be on campus. We appreciate the on-campus environment' ... We knew that that was something we wanted to do for our students, so we had an institutional planning committee that worked throughout the summer to identify how we could deliver coursework face-to-face but still have students have the opportunity ... to participate in a live session but not have to be in the classroom. We knew that was going to be really crucial to being able to continue offering our face-to-face instruction."
DSU has worked hard to increase its enrollment in recent years.
"Listening to what our community and region have said to us about what they need from us and responding through the dual-mission programs, both on the graduate and undergraduate side. In the graduate side, we added a Masters of Arts in Teaching and Athletic Educational Leadership," Moe said.
The program has 26 students enrolled in it.
Moe also mentioned the various articulation agreements the university has created with other educational institutions, which she says helped fall enrollment numbers.
"We actually have 41 students from Dickinson High School taking classes on our campus, in person, which was a way for them to alleviate some of their space concerns because they didn't get a building they were hoping to get. It also allows students to take classes on our campus from DSU faculty," she said.
Moe also credits the addition of a merit-based scholarship.
"In the spring that President Easton arrived, he mentioned that he wanted to do a merit award, which we launched in the spring. It's called the Presidential Scholar Award, and it recognizes students that have a 3.25 GPA or higher with a scholarship of $1,600 a year," she said.
The university also updated its tuition model.
"There was a major revision to how DSU charges tuition based on residency, which included recognizing Montana students as being able to receive in-state tuition rate, so we saw a pretty significant increase in the number of students from Montana and North Dakota," Moe said. "Also in that tuition model, we eliminated the distance-education fee, and we saw more students taking advantage of the online options."
The university also brought back baseball and added two junior varsity sports.