Northern State University shows enrollment growth in pandemic year

September 23, 2020

ABERDEEN, S.D. – Northern State University saw growth in overall headcount this fall, particularly in graduate students, and experienced its fifth consecutive year with a freshman to sophomore retention rate above 73 percent.

Northern was the only South Dakota Board of Regents institution to see a growth in headcount during this pandemic year, according to figures released today from the SDBOR. Northern’s fall 2020 headcount is 3,431, above last fall’s 3,427.

While NSU saw a slight decrease in credit hours, 26,165 this fall compared to last year’s 26,932, the decrease was less than what the BOR system experienced as a whole.

Northern’s biggest gain was in graduate student credit hours, which rose by 17 percent. Northern has 76 new, first-time graduate students this fall—the highest number in 10 years.

This fall’s freshman class of 341 is consistent with last year’s 342. Incoming students also have a higher average ACT and high school GPA this year: 21.87 and 3.387, respectively, compared to 21.72 and 3.371 last year.

Northern saw a decline of about 70 international students due to the COVID-19 pandemic—without that loss, enrollment figures would have grown across the board, said NSU Vice President of Enrollment, Communications and Marketing Justin Fraase.

NSU President Dr. Tim Downs praised the team effort that took place across campus to recruit and retain students.

“That includes our coaches, who brought in a record number of student-athletes; the NSU Foundation and our generous donors who contributed to the Student Emergency Relief Fund, which helped us keep students enrolled; and the hard work of our Admissions Department,” Downs said. “Everybody did everything they could, and our strong numbers show that.”