VERMILLION, S.D. – University of South Dakota President Sheila Gestring highlighted enrollment and law school success and spoke of her priorities, including University Center-Sioux Falls and accessibility, during her inaugural State of the University address Thursday.
Enrollment is up at USD, marking the largest entering class in USD history, Gestring said. First-time, undergraduate enrollment increased 6.4 percent, from 1,341 in Fall 2017 to 1,427 in Fall 2018. Among all first-time undergraduates, enrollment by domestic students of color increased by 13.7 percent. Retention also increased to 77.3 percent, up from 72.4 percent last year.
“A key to our success has been offering resident tuition rates to incoming students from Iowa and Nebraska,” she said. “This is important to the state and its workforce goals because data indicates that 30 percent of non-resident students who attend a South Dakota public university stay in the state, making USD one of the state’s most effective workforce recruiters.”
The law school also saw marked improvement this past year, Gestring said. Not only did the first-time passage rate on the South Dakota Bar Examination for USD law graduates rise to 82 percent based on the results from the July exam, but the average LSAT score rose to the highest it’s been since 2010. This year, USD School of Law offered 13 full tuition scholarships.
“In just one year, we were able to raise $1.2 million for USD School of Law, which is a powerful demonstration of the strong support for the law school,” Gestring said.
As the lead institution for University Center-Sioux Falls (UC-Sioux Falls), USD has a vested interest in the success of the center. UC-Sioux Falls can be a critical means for USD to reach a population of place-bound or undecided students, Gestring said.
“Whether a first-generation college student or a working adult trying to finish a degree, UC-Sioux Falls can serve these students in a way the main campus at USD cannot,” Gestring said. “As the lead institution at University Center-Sioux Falls, USD plays a key role in providing the opportunity to learn, grow and develop.”
For the first time, all six regental presidents and the superintendent of the School for the Deaf and School for the Blind are collectively supporting common funding priorities, Gestring said, including improving accessibility and retaining and recruiting faculty and staff.
As USD moves into 2019 and beyond, there is “tremendous reason for optimism,” Gestring said.
“Now, more than ever, is an exciting time to be a Coyote,” she said.