From the Hawks’ Nest: Hawks Really Are Up! — The Happy News of Increasing Enrollment
“From the Hawks’ Nest” is a monthly column by Dickinson State University President Steve Easton
Dickinson State enrollment is up again! Our headcount—i.e., the number of persons taking one or more classes this semester—increased 4.1% over last year, from 1,415 to 1,473.
Perhaps more significantly, unlike the majority of colleges and universities in the nation, our enrollment is up during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the fall of 2019, the last semester before COVID-19 hit, our headcount was 1,350. Thus, we are up more than 9% over the past three years. Nationwide, undergraduate enrollment has nosedived by over 9% during the pandemic, as of last spring.
Many at DSU deserve our thanks for this wonderful progress during a very challenging time. Dean Holly Gruhlke, Admission Director Stephane Osborne, and the entire recruiting team have done a great job finding potential new students and welcoming them to campus. Dean of Students Kayla Noah and her team have done great work keeping our returning students on the path to graduation.
In addition, our coaches and many of our faculty and staff have done great work with both new and returning students. Our alums and other supporters have also let potential DSU students know the many advantages of a DSU education.
Why is enrollment important? First, enrollment increases are a sign of the health of an institution. Indeed, when we dig a bit deeper into our enrollment data, we see the importance of our innovative programs, including making a DSU education accessible even to those who cannot make it to our campus to take classes.
In the current semester, we have 229 high school students who are taking Dual Credit and Early Entry courses that will earn them credit toward both high school and college graduation. Some, especially those from Dickinson and Trinity High Schools, take classes face-to-face, but most of the rest are not on our campus regularly. This is why we have worked so hard to make courses available via remote—i.e., internet—access, in addition to on campus.
Our new Dual Mission courses are also important. We now provide career and technical education courses, with even more to come soon. As an example, we have 10 students in our welding program, which is the maximum we are able to admit at this time (though more space should be available next fall). Our career and technical programs will continue to expand once the important construction work at the Southwest CTE Academy, under the leadership of Director Aaron Anderson and Dickinson Public Schools Superintendent Marcus Lewton, is completed.
Our Dual Mission has also brought us graduate programs. In the current semester, we have 62 students in our master’s programs in Business Administration, Elementary Education, Entrepreneurship, Sport Administration, and Teaching. Our master’s programs have grown by more than 600% since our first foray into this field a mere four years ago.
Most importantly, of course, an increase in enrollment means that even more students will benefit from the great education provided by the DSU faculty and staff. We are still a small school, so our students benefit from close interaction with faculty, staff, and fellow students. They also have many opportunities for growth outside the classroom with DSU’s robust music and theater programs, student government and organizations, and athletics. As an alum and the parent of an alum, I am excited each time another person decides to come to DSU, because I know they have chosen wisely.
Financially, too, increased enrollment is good for DSU. Our two primary sources of funding are tuition and taxpayer support. Both depend directly on enrollment. Regarding the latter, the funding formula payment we receive from the state of North Dakota is tied to the number of credits earned at DSU. When enrollment increases, this will eventually lead to more employment opportunities at DSU and the development of additional programs.
It is important to note that our enrollment would not be increasing without the $1.1 million in annual scholarships provided by the DSU Heritage Foundation. Thank you to all who give so generously to the foundation. You made our enrollment growth possible.
Also, enrollment increases are good for our community. DSU students and the faculty and staff who serve them are important parts of our local economy. Our community supports us in many ways. Enrollment growth is a way for us to give back.
These are good times at DSU! Thank you for making that a reality for our beloved College on the Hill.