Northern sees growth in graduate student, pre-professional programs

Students walking on the NSU campus

ABERDEEN, S.D. – Northern State University once again saw an increase in graduate student numbers this fall. It also saw a dramatic rise in pre-professional program enrollment, an increase in students living on campus, and its number of new freshmen held steady, according to figures released today from the South Dakota Board of Regents.

Northern’s biggest gain was in graduate student credit hours, which rose by 7 percent from 2020 and is 26 percent over 2019 figures. Northern has 204 degree-seeking graduate students, the highest number since 2014.

In undergraduate programs, Northern’s pre-professional programs saw growth, with 79 students in fall 2021, up from only 15 in 2020. Pre-professional programs range from pre-medicine to pre-law, and often tie in with STEM disciplines—which are primarily taught at the Jewett Regional Science Education Center.

Also, 547 total students are living in residence halls this fall, up from 523 total students in fall 2020.

This fall’s freshman class of 337 is consistent with last year’s 341. Freshman classes have been holding steady at Northern for several years, with the five-year average class size also 337.

For overall headcount, Northern is at 3,340 this fall, down 2.7 percent from last fall’s 3,431. Northern’s full time equivalent decreased only one percent, an indicator that students are taking more credits—and the smallest FTE decrease in the entire BOR system for 2021.

“That’s a very important step for Northern as we’ve been working hard to increase our total number of student credit hours,” said Vice President of Enrollment, Communications and Marketing Justin Fraase.

Northern saw its retention rate fall for the first time in several years, to 68 percent. That compares to 76 percent in 2020, and is the lowest rate since 2014. This is likely attributed to pandemic-related factors and particular impact on international student numbers. Northern has 69 international students this fall, down from 158 in 2019.

“While our numbers weren’t all positive, we had some incredible successes this year, particularly in terms of growing our graduate and pre-professional programs,” President Neal Schnoor said. “I’m extremely proud of our enrollment team and all our faculty and staff for their commitment to recruiting students to Northern and supporting their success.”

Statewide Numbers

System-wide, fall headcount enrollment at is largely unchanged from last year, the Board of Regents reported today. System headcount was down 121 students, a decline of 0.35 percent. Total headcount at the six public universities was 33,445.

Full-time equivalent (FTE) for the fall 2021 term—based on total credit hours generated by all students within the regents’ system—was 23,964, a decline of 2.53 percent or 621 students over last year.

“Enrollments are substantially flat and that is about what we expected, since we still see impacts from the ongoing pandemic,” said Brian L. Maher, the regents’ executive director and CEO. “While we dedicated ourselves to offering a more normal higher education experience this fall, these are challenging times. Our public university system is prepared to meet that challenge head on, delivering South Dakota a well-educated workforce and engaged citizens.”

See the entire BOR press release here.

About Northern State University

Northern State University is a student-centered institution that provides an outstanding educational experience, preparing students through the liberal arts and professional education for their future endeavors. A regional university, Northern offers rigorous academics; diverse civic, social and cultural opportunities; and a commitment to building an inclusive environment for all points of view. Northern also offers a broad-based athletics program, sponsoring 15 NCAA Division II intercollegiate varsity sports that compete in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (NSIC). The university strives to enrich the community through partnerships such as its Educational Impact Campaign, which opened a new South Dakota School for the Blind and Visually Impaired; new athletic and recreation fields; and an on-campus regional sports complex. With the $55 million campaign, NSU has been the recipient of more than $150 million in privately funded building projects and scholarships within a decade. To learn more, visit NSU Admissions