BHSU sees largest incoming class in three years, overall enrollment down slightly

Black Hills State University experienced over a six percent increase in first-year student enrollment for Fall 2022 as overall headcount enrollment at South Dakota's six public universities is nearly one percent higher system-wide than the previous academic year.

“After a year of implementing our strategic enrollment plan, I am pleased to see our efforts bear fruit,” John Allred, Vice President for Enrollment Management said. “By continuing to grow our incoming cohort and working hard toward continuous improvement of our student retention, I am confident we will see our overall headcount begin to reflect this positive movement.”

The incoming class size of 481 students at BHSU is the largest since 2019.

Another highlight was a 10 percent cohort retention increase at BHSU. The university was recognized with the 2022 Lee Noel-Randi Levitz Retention Excellence Award by higher education enrollment firm Ruffalo Noel Levitz (RNL). In 2020, BHSU had a retention rate of 61 percent and lifted retention to 71 percent in the fall of 2022. This was accomplished by creating a strategic enrollment plan that established many effective student success initiatives.  

Overall headcount at BHSU was down 3.2 percent, totaling 3,425 students for Fall 2022 compared to 3,539 in Fall 2021.

The Spearfish main campus was relatively stable with a -3 difference from Fall 2021 (1,528) to Fall 2022 (1,525) while the Rapid City campus saw a decline from 486 in Fall 2021 to 442 in Fall 2022, a change of -44.

The continuing student class is 116 students less than last year due to attrition within student classes. Between two smaller cohorts moving their way through and an attrition of part-time students not returning, BHSU retained a greater percentage of a smaller student body (72 percent versus 68 percent) but ended up with fewer students overall.

A reduction in transfer and graduate students accounted for a loss of 43 students. Nationwide, post-COVID transfer numbers are reported as down for institutions similar to BHSU who serve a regional area and provide particular assistance to underprepared student populations. The graduate program accounting for the largest reduction was the field of education.

A downturn in high school dual credit students also contributed to the overall enrollment decline as Fall 2022 saw 494 students compared to 520 from Fall 2021, a difference of 26.

The South Dakota Board of Regents publishes enrollment numbers at the beginning of each academic year. For additional information, please contact or visit