BHSU enrollment dips

SPEARFISH — Although overall enrollment at Black Hills State University declined slightly this year, the university saw several indicators that point to future growth.

The number of first-time freshmen enrolling at the university increased 3.4%. Transfers into BHSU also increased this fall by 9.8%. The university’s current enrollment is 3,539, a 1.9% decline compared to fall 2020.

“While we are disappointed with an overall enrollment decline, there is strong growth to report in several key areas,” BHSU President Laurie S. Nichols said. “We are welcoming more first-time freshmen, transfer, and dual credit students to campus as students continue to appreciate the value of in-person learning and the quality of a Black Hills State University degree.”

Nichols added that ongoing disruption stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to a decline in retention of returning students at BHSU, a national trend that is particularly affecting colleges and universities that serve students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.

“We learned a great deal last year and have resumed a more normal campus life this fall, but the ongoing pandemic continues to have an impact on the lives of students and their families,” Nichols said.  “Students who seem particularly hard hit by COVID are those from lower income families. BHSU has seen a 32% drop in Pell-eligible students over the past two academic years. Many students have financial concerns or are struggling with the uncertainty of the pandemic. We’re reaching out to those not returning this fall to let them know we are here to help provide financial and academic solutions to help them reach their educational and career goals.”

BHSU saw a 2% drop in full-time students while part-time student enrollment grew by 2%.

“It appears that for some, continuing their education is important, yet taking less credits to maintain a part-time or full-time job was necessary,” said Nichols.

BHSU also saw a more than 16% increase in enrollment from states in which it offers in-state tuition – Colorado, Iowa, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Wyoming. The university also saw a 33% increase in students from Minnesota, who also receive a special tuition rate at BHSU. This year’s student body includes students from every county in South Dakota, 45 states, and 32 countries.

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