BHSU enrollment increases in freshman, Honors, international, Hispanics, and veterans; Overall slights decrease primarily at BHSU-RC and in graduate students

Author: BHSU Communications/Wednesday, September 21, 2016/Categories: 2016

Black Hills State University has a significant increase in the number of new freshmen this fall, just one of several key positive indicators in enrollment numbers for the University including the number of Honors students, international students, and students taking Dual Credit courses. Enrollment overall is flat with a slight downturn in the number of graduate students and students attending BHSU-Rapid City.

Black Hills State University has a significant increase in the number of new freshmen which is just one of several key positive indicators in enrollment numbers this fall. Enrollment overall is flat with a slight downturn in the number of graduate students and students attending BHSU-Rapid City.

The fall headcount at BHSU is 4,244 students. BHSU has students from all 66 counties in South Dakota, 44 states and a record 32 different countries.

"BHSU continues to show impressive increases in the number of new students and several other areas including the number of Honors students, the number of international students and the number of students taking Dual Credit courses," Dr. Tom Jackson, Jr., BHSU president said.

The strong increase, 15 percent over the last two years, in the number of new freshmen at BHSU is especially impressive since the number of high school graduates in the state and region continues to decline. This fall there are 587 new freshmen at BHSU, a significant increase of 7.5 percent over last year. The strong interest and enrollment of new freshmen is the result of many factors including increased presence, recruitment, marketing, enhanced campus life, and new scholarships.

"BHSU significantly increased the number of new freshmen this fall. We know we are on the right track with new student enrollment," Jackson said. "As the number of high school graduates in the state and region declines, BHSU, and all universities in the region, are increasingly seeking to enroll a shrinking pool of students. It's remarkable that our freshmen class continues to grow at this rate."

Jackson said students increasingly recognize the exceptional academic opportunities and also appreciate the outdoor and cultural activities in Spearfish which is known as a vibrant college town and consistently ranks nationally for a high quality of life. Jackson also noted that bringing in more than 585 new students creates a significant economic impact to the region thanks to the purchasing power of new and returning students, their parents and visitors for University events.

This year, BHSU had a record number of students apply for admission in response to increased marketing and recruitment efforts across the state and region. Several new scholarships, created to encourage local students to attend BHSU, continue to make a positive impact on enrollment and retention. The two newest scholarship programs, Northern Hills Jacket Scholarship and the Presidential Medallion, had retention rates of 92 percent.  

Occupancy rates for the residence halls are another positive indicator this fall especially for the newest addition, Crow Peak Hall, which is nearly at capacity with 97 percent occupancy. The number of on campus students has increased by nearly 6 percent in the last two years. BHSU is also noticing a resurgence in participation in campus events and activities.

Another of the highlights is the significant increase in the Honors Program which now has more than 100 students and has grown exponentially in the last three years showing a 339 percent increase. Jackson said the thriving BHSU Honors Program is an exceptional academic experience for high-achieving students. The Honors Program recently formed a partnership with the BHSU Office of International Relations and Global Engagement which provides Honors students the experience and mentorship needed to pursue their rigorous academic and professional goals while preparing them for employment opportunities that increasingly require global knowledge and experience. Many Honors students travel internationally as a part of the program.

There is also a record number of international students at BHSU this fall from 32 different countries. Jackson noted that in addition to the increase in the number of international students attending classes at BHSU, there has also been a significant increase in the number of students that participate in study abroad programs. Students this year will be participating in an international research symposium in Botswana, Africa taking part in a service learning project in the Philippines and studying in Italy.

BHSU continues to see increases in the number of students who are taking Dual Credit courses. This year 303 students are taking BHSU Dual Credit courses which is up 15 percent over last year and an increase of 50 percent since the program began in 2014. BHSU provides additional incentives for Dual Credit students by offering a scholarship when students graduate from high school and enroll full-time at BHSU.

BHSU has a noticeable increase in the number of students from nearby Wyoming. Thanks in part to an initiative to provide in-state tuition to new Wyoming students, BHSU has noted a 12 percent increase in the number of students from Wyoming over the last three years.

The fastest growing minority group at BHSU are Hispanic students which have increased by 21 percent in the last three years. Hispanics are finding that BHSU is an open and welcoming family-oriented place. The multi-racial group, which makes up 5 percent of the total population of BHSU, is also growing showing a 27 percent increase in the last three years.

Another area that has seen notable consistent growth in recent years is online credit hours. BHSU offers a growing number of interactive classes online to meet the needs of today's students. In the last three years the number of online learners has increased 26 percent, a rate outpacing many other institutions.

"We have innovative faculty teaching traditionally didactic classes in new interactive and accessible ways to meet the needs of adult learners and remote students," Dr. Chris Crawford, provost and vice president of Academic Affairs, said. He noted that both undergraduate and master's level courses are offered online in a variety of disciplines. BHSU now offers five online master degrees, two online bachelor degrees, and numerous minors and certification programs are offered entirely online.

The two percent decrease in credit hours for BHSU is the result of student retention, cost, a decrease in the number of students at BHSU-Rapid City and a decrease in the number of graduate students who enroll in master's level courses cyclically to earn certifications. These courses are offered as needed for teachers and other educators and numbers vary by year.

BHSU-Rapid City enrollment numbers are down but are within the expected range. Jackson noted that BHSU-RC, and all University Centers in the region, are struggling with enrollment. One of the factors is the continued low unemployment rates that have an adverse effect on the number of adult learners taking classes. Jackson said BHSU-RC is working with leaders in Rapid City to determine areas for potential growth. There are currently 1,000 students taking classes at BHSU-RC.

"Enrollment at BHSU-Rapid City continues to be a challenge," Jackson said. "We are working with educational, business and civic leaders in Rapid City to determine what educational opportunities are needed in the city and how to best serve the region."

Jackson also noted that a steady increase in the number of students who have graduated from BHSU over the last four years, which has increased by nearly 14 percent, is having an adverse effect on overall enrollment numbers. However he says that is a challenge he is glad to have.

"The fact that we continue to graduate record number of students is a good problem to have," Jackson said. "Ultimately that is our goal, to continue to graduate more students and provide South Dakota and the surrounding region with a career ready workforce."
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