University centers in Sioux Falls and Pierre see downturns in enrollmentsNumbers up at Rapid City facility.
By: Bob Mercer, Republic Capitol Bureau
PIERRE — The state university centers at Sioux Falls and Pierre saw enrollments drop significantly for the recent fall and spring semesters in comparison to the previous year, according to their latest annual reports.
Meanwhile, the year-old center at Rapid City experienced a 12 percent increase in credit hours taken by students for the two main semesters. Enrollment also was up last summer by 2-plus percent.
The state Board of Regents, whose members govern South Dakota’s six traditional university campuses and the three university centers, will discuss the reports at a meeting next week at Dakota State University in Madison.
Construction of the three centers during the past decade was a major emphasis of the board and its former executive director, Tad Perry. The centers were an attempt to create more degree-carrying adults in South Dakota’s workforce.
The Sioux Falls and Pierre directors cited various circumstances for their enrollment fall-offs.
Sioux Falls enrollments went down by more than 8 percent for total credit hours, while the number of students fell by approximately 11 percent.
At Pierre, credit hours decreased by about 14 percent.
Director Mark Lee said the campus has run into a variety of what he described as “headwinds” such as prices for courses beyond what students feel they can afford, and competition from other colleges and universities in Sioux Falls.
The regents recently adopted a reduced tuition package for some courses at the Sioux Falls center in an attempt to attract more students.
The Pierre center delivered 14 percent fewer credit hours of courses for the fall and spring semesters in comparison to the 2010-2011 academic year.
There were 181 students who took 1,218 credit hours last fall, and 173 students who took a total of 1,123 credit hours in the recently completed spring semester.
Director Ron Woodburn cited the summer 2011 flood on the Missouri River that caused disruption in large parts of the Pierre and Fort Pierre communities as the primary reason.
An effect was felt, too, by a change in state government with cessation of its leadership program, according to Woodburn. The program had been sending two classrooms of state employees for special training in previous years.
Rapid City, the newest of the three centers, attracted more students and delivered more credit hours of courses in the past year than in the previous one. Fall credit hours totaled 9,918 and spring 9,684.
Sioux Falls handles roughly double the student load as Rapid City. The Sioux Falls center reported 17,244 fall credit hours and 16,278 spring credit hours.