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USD Announces Record-Setting Retention Rate, Growth in New Graduate Student Enrollment

A drone shot of USD USD saw substantial growth in new graduate student enrollment and a record number of returning students.

VERMILLION, S.D. – The University of South Dakota saw substantial growth in new graduate student enrollment and a record number of returning students, while seeing a small decline in total new student enrollment.

The university anticipated these enrollment trends and was pleased to see relative stability and even a few areas of growth during a time of uncertainty due to the global pandemic, said USD President Sheila K. Gestring.

Total student headcount, which includes undergraduate and graduate enrollment for full-time and part-time students, declined by 4.6%. While part-time students – many of which were non-degree-seeking – declined by 9.2%, full-time students declined by only 1.9%, meaning the core of USD’s student population remains intact.

This year, the graduate school grew by 118 new, first-time students, with substantial growth in the Beacom School of Business and the School of Health Sciences.

“Business and health care are two areas that distinguish USD from others in the region, and that shows in USD’s enrollment numbers,” Gestring said. “We are the only university in the state that for more than 70 years has been accredited by the AACSB, the world’s leading accreditation body, and offer the only comprehensive School of Health Sciences in the state. We look forward to continued growth in these areas as we explore new ways to innovate, such as with our data analytics program and interprofessional health care approach.”

This fall, USD’s first-time, full-time, on-campus domestic freshmen declined by 73 students from last year’s incoming class. The university saw growth in new student enrollment from South Dakota and Nebraska while seeing declines in Iowa and Minnesota. USD realized a 2.9% increase in high school dual credit enrollment, with indications that freshman-level math courses in Sioux Falls contributed to the growth of the dual credit program at USD.

“While we experienced a decline in undergraduate recruitment from the record numbers we have achieved in recent years, this is consistent with data we have seen across the nation as students and families consider the best way to chart their futures amid the pandemic,” said Scott Pohlson, vice president of enrollment, marketing and university relations at USD. “However, I’m very pleased to see growth in South Dakota, our largest market. We also saw growth in Nebraska for the second year in a row, which we attribute to being able to offer an in-state rate.”

While USD admitted twice as many international students compared to last year, the university ultimately had a decrease of 35.6% in new international student enrollment due to COVID-19’s impact on global mobility, Pohlson said.

USD also reached a record-setting 80.7% retention rate, which Gestring attributes to a campus-wide commitment to retaining and supporting students.

“I’m incredibly proud to see the hard work of our faculty and staff pay off with our record retention rates,” Gestring said. “It speaks volumes about the kind of experience students have and can look forward to at USD.”

ABOUT USD

Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 202 undergraduate and 78 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, Knudson School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 16:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 18 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.

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