First-year students drive enrollment at South Dakota State University

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SDSU sees 1.2% dip from 2021, with total enrollment at 11,331

BROOKINGS – Figures released by the South Dakota Board of Regents Tuesday show enrollment at South Dakota State University to include a class of 2,192 first-year students, the largest freshman class at SDSU since 2017. 

Total enrollment at SDSU stands at 11,331.

“We are very excited to welcome such a large class of incoming students to South Dakota State University,” said SDSU President Barry Dunn. “It is clear SDSU is an institution of choice for high school graduates, and we are pleased they chose our premier university. Our campus is vibrant, and our students are certainly off to a great start this fall semester.”

In addition to the large class of first-year students, total credit hours being taken by students increased from 134,324 in fall 2021 to 134,786 in fall 2022, despite a 1.2% dip in total headcount from the total enrollment last year of 11,465. The decrease in overall headcount was primarily due to fewer students in graduate school courses, particularly those who were not seeking a degree but taking an advanced course for professional development.

“We are seeing our graduate school reset itself following the COVID-19 pandemic,” Dunn said. “It is not uncommon for land-grant universities to see an increase in graduate-level classes being taken during a disruption in the economy such as a recession, or as in the case the past two years, a global pandemic.

“It is commonly a time when individuals go back to school or find courses that will enhance their professional opportunities,” Dunn added. “We saw individuals the previous two years take that opportunity, especially when it came to health care workers and teachers. We certainly fulfilled our mission of providing access to higher education to hundreds of South Dakotans.”

SDSU continues to be the university of choice for South Dakotans as 55% of its student population is from the state, a figure consistent with last year. Retention remained steady at 78.8%, a slight dip from 79.9% a year ago.

“We continue to open doors for citizens of our state to receive a quality education at a great value,” Dunn said. “It is important that we provide those opportunities to train and educate a quality workforce that in turn drives the economic growth that benefits everyone in South Dakota.”

An important financial opportunity for students played a key role in opening doors for South Dakota students. The South Dakota Freedom Scholarship launched this year and provided financial need-based scholarships to South Dakotans seeking a bachelor’s degree at a participating higher education institution in the state. In total, 478 students who are attending SDSU received a Freedom Scholarship, 186 of which are enrolled for the first time. The scholarship is a public/private partnership through the state of South Dakota, T. Denny Sanford, First Premier Bank, Premier Bankcard, Avera Health and Sanford Health.

“The support we received this year for the Freedom Scholarship continues to change higher education forever in our state,” Dunn said. “We are providing more students the opportunity to attend college, earn a degree and in turn have a positive impact on their communities. We will continue to find ways to provide more and more South Dakotans an affordable education at SDSU.”

The number of high school students taking courses from SDSU, including dual credit courses, increased by 95 students for a total of 903. That figure is also an increase of 261 students over the previous two years.

Despite continued challenges students face in obtaining visas to enter the United States, the number of international students at SDSU also increased this past year to 621, up from 589 students in 2021.

SDSU continues its upward trend in the number of graduates with 2,529 degrees conferred in May 2022, following a 2021 commencement where 2,440 degrees were awarded. SDSU has a three-year average of 2,511 degrees awarded.

Headcount up slightly systemwide

Fall headcount enrollment at South Dakota’s six public universities is nearly 1% higher systemwide than the previous academic year, totaling 33,690 students. In addition, the South Dakota Board of Regents welcomed 5,208 first-year students. The incoming 2022-23 academic class was up 6.3% for the South Dakota public university system.

“We’re excited to see so many new faces on campus,” BOR Executive Director Brian Maher said. “Having more than 5,000 incoming first-year students is encouraging for higher education in South Dakota.”

BOR also measures enrollment based on full-time equivalent students. The FTE count takes the number of credit hours and applies that figure to the overall student headcount. A full-time workload is considered 15 credit hours for undergraduates, 12 credit hours for master’s and doctoral degrees, 15 credits for law students, and 19 credits for medical students. This year’s FTE enrollment remained largely unchanged for the public university system. The difference is primarily due to increased dual credit courses offered at the high school level.

“Our dual credit students are public university students,” Maher said. “We are pleased with how that program has grown over the years, as it gives our students the chance to get ahead in their education and easily transition to the campus best suited for their needs.”

The South Dakota Board of Regents publishes enrollment numbers at the beginning of each academic year. For additional information, visit


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