By Frank Stanko
Wahpeton’s North Dakota State College of Science campus is proud to announce they have a fall enrollment of 1,349 students, up from 1,315 in 2015.
Dr. John Richman, NDSCS president, said the 2.6 percent increase doesn’t come without planning, effort and hard work.
“I aways go back to our mission, which is to educate and train the workforce for North Dakota and this region,” he said. “In order to do that, you have to have students.”
Wahpeton’s increased enrollment contrasts with a decrease of enrolled students for NDSCS on the whole, which includes the Wahpeton and Fargo campuses as well as courses for online and early entry students.
According to NDSCS, the total fall enrollment is 3,003 students, down from 3,123 in 2015. Nevertheless, 2016 marks the sixth consecutive year NDSCS has had a fall enrollment surpass 3,000 students.
“We’ve worked very hard at the traditional recruitment processes and in recent years, we’ve added business and industry partnerships that have helped us to identify and recruit students. We’ve got several (partnered) businesses that have their own recruiters, identify students, are sponsoring students and are helping pay a portion, or all of a student’s educational costs,” Richman said.
While recruitment methods and technology changes, the mission doesn’t.
“It’s good to produce a workforce,” Richman said.
The partnerships are one component of a strategic approach to growing enrollment at NDSCS’ Wahpeton campus.
“Thanks to the planning and efforts of our faculty, staff and business partners, NDSCS is becoming part of the personal success story for many more students,” Richman continued.
Sharing comments from Student Senate President Mason Rademacher, Richman noted that the freshman class of 2016-17, which totals 1,982 students, are “much more involved … much more engaged.” In fact, three new student clubs have been created since the school year began.
“It’s a progressive student (we enroll),” Richman said. “I think a lot of our students come to us because of the way we educate. I think a lot of our type of students aren’t willing to just sit in a classroom, they want to have an active, engaged education process. We hear about the want for hands-on, project-based learning. We’ve been doing that for 100 years. It’s what we’ve been doing.”
Richman agreed with Barbara Spaeth-Baum, NDSCS’ executive director of college relations and marketing, that the idea of, “it’s not what students are going to learn, but how they’re going to learn it,” is resonating just as strongly with parents.
“The difference between classroom learning and hands on learning is critically important to understand,” Spaeth-Baum said.
According to Spaeth-Baum, the number of students enrolled full time at NDSCS has grown to 1,753 in 2016. That’s a 3.5 percent increase from 1,694 in fall 2015.
Not only that, but the number of students living on the Wahpeton campus in residence halls, family housing or apartments has increased by 4 percent to 1,027 for fall 2016. Despite the increase, Richman said the residence halls at NDSCS’s Wahpeton campus are currently under capacity.
While there are no plans to expand the amount of residence halls at the Wahpeton campus, the goal is to continue hall renovations and refurnishing in the near future. Richman said Robertson Hall would be the next hall tackled, but could not give an exact date.
Richman and Spaeth-Baum spoke about the success NDSCS has had with the “Stay and Save” program. If a student signs up for their second-year housing by a certain date, the school guarantees their current housing and dining plan rates will be retained for the second year, they said. More information on this program, including exceptions, can be found at ndscs.edu/stay.
“One of our primary focuses has been to get this Wahpeton campus at capacity,” Richman said. “Now we have to turn around and focus on not only retention, but recruiting the next class to keep (the number of students) as large, if not larger.”
Looking beyond the Wahpeton campus, NDSCS announced that 431 students are taking at least one class at the Fargo campus, a 2 percent increase from fall 2015.
“A breakdown of the total enrollment shows 280 students taking classes only at NDSCS-Fargo and 207 taking classes exclusively online,” Spaeth-Baum wrote in a press release. “There are 483 students taking classes at multiple NDSCS locations or through a combination of in-person and online instruction.”
Meanwhile, the number of high school students taking early entry classes through NDSCS has decreased from 825 students from fall 2015 to 684 students for fall 2016.
“While we are seeing fewer high school students enrolled in our early entry classes this fall, traditional students are recognizing the value of a two-year education – including the 99 percent placement rate of our graduates,” Richman said.
Of the 3,003 total enrolled students, 2,056, or 68 percent, are from the state of North Dakota, with 48 out of 53 counties represented. Richman called this an example of furthering NDSCS’ state-wide mission.
“Our plan is working and the evidence is in the numbers,” he added.
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