By Frank Stanko
The numbers are in. North Dakota State College of Science has a total enrollment of 2,985 students this fall. That includes enrollment on the Wahpeton and Fargo campuses, as well as online and early entry students.
NDSCS describes this year’s figure as a slight drop — less than 1 percent — from the fall of 2016, when 3,003 total students were enrolled. The fall of 2017 also marks the first time in seven years NDSCS’ enrollment fell under 3,000 students. Nevertheless, president Dr. John Richman expressed confidence in the overall strength of his institution.
“I have said this often: I am not interested in being first and I am not interested in being the biggest,” Richman said. “I am only interested in, am driven by and passionate about NDSCS being the best that we do. Being the best, for us, doesn’t mean being measured by our enrollment.”
Richman pointed to NDSCS’ mission of educating and training the workforce.
“To do that, yes, we certainly have to have students. The more students we have, the more graduates we’ll have. That’s if we are educating our students in the right way,” he said.
According to NDSCS, the number of high school students taking early entry classes has increased from 684 in 2016 to 714 in 2017. That’s a growth of more than 4 percent.
“We still see a lot of potential for growth there,” Richman said. “Not only do I believe it’s possible, I believe it’s got to happen. We have to change the ways we deliver education. One of those ways is to expand our offerings to the appropriate students that are still in high school.”
While North Dakota’s number of high school graduates has been declining since the 1980s, Richman noted, it is forecast to increase in the spring of 2018.
“I would commend our staff and our faculty, because for 25 years, the potential pool of North Dakota students has been trending down,” he continued. “We actually hit a high in enrollment (3,168 students) for the past 30 years four years ago. Because of our efforts to recruit, market and diversify our delivery methods academically, we’ve been able to counter that downward trend and attract more students.”
NDSCS and Wahpeton Public Schools both receive state funding, but their requirements are different and separate. Wahpeton Public Schools, for example, earns its funding based on the number of enrolled students.
“That is not our case,” Richman said. “Ours is a (courses) credit-based funding formula. A half-percent enrollment drop does not affect our budget negatively. In our enrollment management, we are comfortable where we are today.”
Starting Monday, Oct. 2, NDSCS will celebrate homecoming. The college’s football game, pitting the Wildcats against the Dakota College at Bottineau Lumberjacks, is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 7. The game will take place at Earl “Skip” Bute Alumni Stadium, at 919 14th Ave. N. in Wahpeton.
The Daily News will continue to provide homecoming coverage, whether in our pages or at www.wahpetondailynews.com.
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