BHSU fall enrollment supported by high retention rate

Black Hills State University has an increase in number of students enrolled in undergraduate programs and achieved a record-breaking retention rate with Fall 2017 enrollment.

Black Hills State University has an increase in number of students enrolled in undergraduate programs and achieved a record-breaking retention rate with Fall 2017 enrollment.

The number of undergraduate students at BHSU increased by 135 students, a 4 percent increase. The retention rate, 70 percent, is the highest recorded by the University. The dramatic 6 percent increase in the retention rate is significant.

"We are pleased with the Fall 2017 enrollment numbers. Perhaps the most important statistics for BHSU are the continued high graduation rate and the substantial increase in our retention rate," BHSU President Dr. Tom Jackson, Jr., said. "As a University, we are committed to the success of our students and are gratified to note a nearly 6 percent increase in retention over last year. Kudos to the faculty and staff for their exceptional dedication and commitment to our students."

Jackson also praised the University-wide effort in recent years that has resulted in a record number of students earning their diplomas and is looking forward to continuing that trend.

There are many excellent enrollment indicators for BHSU that show the University is on target with enrollment goals and meeting the needs for higher education for citizens in the state and region.
  • First-time freshman - Over the past three years, BHSU has increased the number of new freshmen by 9.5 percent. This year 555 new freshmen are attending BHSU. In addition, BHSU has a significant number of transfer students from within the state and across the nation. Even as the state and region continue to face a declining population of high school students, BHSU is attracting and enrolling more first time freshmen.
  • Honors Program &ndash The number of students enrolled in the BHSU Honors program has grown significantly since the Program was established in 2013 and now has more than 100 students enrolled.
  • Online - The number of students taking classes online continues to grow. This year, the number of students taking classes online grew by 12 percent. Many students take online courses in addition to their on-campus or BHSU-Rapid city classes.
  • BHSU-Rapid City, a location established in the state's second largest city, now has more than 1,000 students enrolled. BHSU-RC offers daytime and evening classes and is beginning a new block schedule option with accelerated timelines next semester. The block schedule, which has proven highly successful at other universities, creates the opportunity for students to take one course at a time, for 18 days, take a four day break and then begin their next course. Students can complete a full-time schedule in a semester (12 credit hours) with this innovative plan.
  • International Outreach - There are 71 international students enrolled at BHSU this fall, an increase of 29 percent in the last three years. This year BHSU has students enrolled from a record number of countries - 36. 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 taking part in a service learning project in the Philippines and participating in an international research symposium in Botswana, Africa.
  • Diversity - BHSU continues to see exceptional growth in diversity. BHSU now has a 20 percent diversity population, the highest in University history. BHSU has a legacy of providing exceptional educational opportunities for American Indian students. More than 270 American Indian students are enrolled at BHSU making up 6.5 percent of the student population. BHSU has had exceptional retention rates, an average of nearly 95 percent, for this group of students in the last three years.
  • Dual Credit - Dual Credit and the Rising Scholar programs, which allow high school students to earn university-level credit, have also seen consistent growth in the last three years. This fall nearly 500 students from across the state are enrolled in these two programs, an increase of 61 percent since 2015.
  • Veterans - BHSU has a history of working with veterans and their families. This year, 319 veterans or veteran dependents are enrolled at BHSU which is more than 7 percent of the overall enrollment and an increase of nearly 11 percent over last year.
  • Occupancy rates are at 93 percent for the residence halls and apartments. 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.

Dr. Chris Crawford, provost and vice president for academic affairs, said BHSU remains committed to educating and retaining students.

"Over the last year, BHSU faculty and staff have placed an emphasis on our enrollment management plan. The significant jump in retention represents years of effort at making the University more responsive to our newest students," Crawford said.

Dr. Lois Flagstad, vice president for enrollment and student affairs, said another credit to the increased retention at BHSU is student engagement on campus demonstrated by the increased involvement of students participating in student organizations and activities.

BHSU has nearly 4,200 students enrolled this fall. Overall BHSU has a slight decrease of 1.5 percent in total enrollment. Although BHSU has a significant increase in undergraduate students, graduate programs saw a decline largely in education and likely due to decreased availability of federal funds for teacher professional development.

Enrollment in the South Dakota Board of Regents, which includes six state universities including BHSU, was up slightly overall.   

Black Hills State University is the only comprehensive university in western South Dakota. BHSU is a masters-level state university with students from all 66 counties in South Dakota, 45 states, and 36 countries. The campus leads the region in environmental sustainability efforts and maintains top academic programs in business (AACSB), exercise science, psychology, natural sciences, social sciences, the arts, mass communication, health sciences and education. The university provides academic programs through three colleges, the College of Business and Natural Sciences, the College of Education and Behavioral Sciences, and the College of Liberal Arts. The University, founded in 1883 as a school for preparing teachers, is located in the northern Black Hills, a region abundant with outdoor activity and culture. BHSU continues to be recognized nationally for best online master's degree in education, opportunities for Native American students, Best for Vets, and other accolades.

Spearfish, located in the western state of South Dakota, is recognized as one of the top 10 most livable small towns in the USA and has also been recognized for outdoor recreational opportunities. A second location, BHSU-RC, was recently established in Rapid City, the state of South Dakota's second largest city. BHSU, a member of NCAA Division II athletics, offers 14 sports. BHSU has a legacy of champion rodeo teams.