FARGO — Valley City State University has broken its own enrollment record for the fifth year in a row, bucking declines seen at North Dakota State University and other state institutions.
VCSU reported an official headcount of 1,665 students, up almost 8% from last year's total of 1,547, according to numbers released Tuesday, Sept. 24. NDSU also released its official numbers Tuesday, marking the school's lowest student population since 2008.
The home of the Bison enrolled 13,173 students — a slide of about 4.5% from last year, or 623 students. That’s the deepest drop since NDSU started its five-year decline from its 2014 record high of 14,747 students, according to a Forum analysis.
“NDSU will continue to aggressively recruit new students as a key part of our mission to serve the needs of North Dakota,” Laura Oster-Aaland, vice provost of enrollment management and student affairs, said in a statement.
NDSU President Dean Bresciani previously projected the school will lose between $5 million and $6 million in revenue due to the enrollment drop this fall.
Enrollment across the state has dipped since 2011, when the North Dakota University System hit an all-time high of 48,833 students. The fall to 44,938 students this year reflects an 8% drop since 2011.
University leaders say attracting students has become more competitive across the country — fewer students are graduating from high school, and an economy with available jobs and higher wages is more enticing than attending college.
But not all schools are losing students. The University of Jamestown also reported an uptick in its year-over-year enrollment, according to numbers provided to The Forum.
The private, four-year school counted 1,135 students this fall, a 3% increase from last year and a 13% rise from five years ago. The 2019 headcount fell just short of breaking the 2017 record of 1,137 students.
Efforts to increase retention, recruitment and add graduate programs have helped enrollment numbers, UJ President Polly Peterson told The Forum. She also noted efforts to support students with resources and capital campaigns to provide more scholarships that can cut tuition almost in half for the average student, Peterson said.
"That really makes a difference," she said. "Our students are getting financial aid packages that make it very affordable, and sometimes even less than the public schools."
Mayville State University also broke its enrollment record for the eighth straight year, hitting a fall headcount of 1,212 students, according to numbers released Tuesday. That was a 2% increase from last year and a 14% jump from 2015.
VCSU President Alan LaFave attributed the 17% increase at his school over the last five years to helping students with financial aid. The school gave over $1.7 million in academic scholarship assistance this year — among other initiatives.
The North Dakota State College of Science, with campuses in Wahpeton and Fargo, counted 2,977 students this fall — a 0.7% increase over last year but still almost 5% down from 2015. The school's record enrollment stands at 3,168 students set in 2013.
Concordia College in Moorhead slid 7% from its 2018 count of 2,097 students to 2,010 this fall, according to official numbers released this month.
Other area schools, including Minnesota State University Moorhead, Minnesota State Community and Technical College and Mayville State University, have not yet released official enrollment numbers this fall.