SD Public Universities Maintain Record-High Recession-Era Enrollments

Megan Raposa gets the funny-smart tweet of the week for her observation on Regental PR:

Yes, when growth is good and shrinkage is shame, we can’t expect the Regents or the campuses to headline full story on campus enrollment. Their press release about higher fall enrollment this year is all spinnage about gains at DSU and USD keeping the systemwide gain at 0.36% for the year. We get no data up front about the shrinkage that must have happened at the other four campuses to keep enrollment practically steady across the Regental system. Here’s the bar chart from the SDBOR Dashboard for all six campuses:

Source: SDBOR Dashboard, retrieved 2017.09.21.
Source: SDBOR Dashboard, retrieved 2017.09.21.

According to that chart, Northern ticked up a bit, too, but SDSU, BHSU, and Mines each went down. Oh well.

Permit me to do PR’s job and suggest a better lead for the story. Instead of trying to squeeze eternal-growth lemonade out of those lemony flatlines, why not move the long-term charts from the bottom of the Regental presser to the top and offer this assessment: South Dakota’s public universities have managed to maintain the record levels of enrollment achieved in the post-Recession boom for seven straight years!

That spin would never occur to typical PR people who grow up imbibing the business model of grow or die and ignoring the possibility that another definition of unbounded growth is cancer. But I would suggest that being able to maintain enrollment levels originally driven by an economic downturn in an economy chugging along with trivial unemployment figures (at least among the non-reservation population) is an achievement worth headlining.

South Dakota Public University System

Full-Time Equivalent Enrollment 1997-2017

Fall Term System % Change
1997 21,714
1998 21,917 0.93%
1999 21,606 -1.42%
2000 21,616 0.04%
2001 22,339 3.35%
2002 23,008 3.00%
2003 23,605 2.59%
2004 23,534 -0.30%
2005 24,089 2.36%
2006 24,144 0.23%
2007 24,512 1.52%
2008 24,926 1.69%
2009 25,468 2.17%
2010 26,625 4.54%
2011 26,720 0.35%
2012 26,468 –0.94%
2013 26,782 1.18%
2014 26,737 –0.17%
2015 26,684 –0.20%
2016 26,600 -0.32%
2017 26,634 0.13%

One Response to SD Public Universities Maintain Record-High Recession-Era Enrollments

  1. Much more important than growth is retention and matriculation.