While some universities in the region saw an increase in first-day student numbers, others saw decreases, and some university administrators are predicting they will ultimately wind up with a similar number of students compared to last fall.
Mayville State University reported a 3% increase in Day 1 student numbers, while Northland Community and Technical College said the total number of students decreased by 4%. Administrators at the University of Minnesota-Crookston also expect to be down compared to last fall. While first day student numbers were down at Lake Region State College in Devils Lake, that number is expected to be on par with the previous year. UND reported a 1% increase over last year.
“We are happy with how the first-day enrollment figures have come together for the fall semester of 2021,” said Mayville State University President Brian Van Horn. “Our staff and faculty have worked extremely hard to help prospective students learn more about the wonderful opportunities at Mayville State University, even when the coronavirus pandemic made it very difficult to communicate with potential students.”
MSU’s first-day headcount for the fall semester of 2021 was 1,125, a 3.02% increase over the fall 2020 first-day headcount of 1,091. Full-time students increased to 625 from 594 last year.
Incoming freshmen accounted for the largest increase at MSU, with 189 students enrolled on Day 1. That’s up nearly 22% from last fall’s 148 students. Transfer students increased by 19 people to 149.
Of the 1,125 students enrolled at MSU, 515 students are enrolled exclusively online and 610 are studying on campus.
“To see increases in headcount and full-time equivalent even after the uncertainty caused by the pandemic is extremely meaningful,” Van Horn said. “Topping it off with an almost 22% increase in the number of freshmen is very impactful.”
Administrators at UMC did not report Day 1 student numbers, and like other universities, will release a fall census later in September. Still, administrators there are expecting numbers to be slightly lower than last year, which they attribute to a decrease in online students following a record year for enrollments last year. Trends indicate that on-campus students may have increased, and retention of students of color is strong.
Last year UMC’s enrollment was 1,754, with 664 students on-campus and 1,090 online.
“We are thrilled with the energy on campus and we anticipate a strong recruitment year,” said Shawn Smith, interim assistant director of communications at UMC.
At Northland, President Sandy Kiddoo, said the total number of students decreased by 4%. Kiddoo said the decrease can be attributed to a number of factors, including uncertainty over the pandemic. The tight labor market may also be a reason for the decrease, she said, and some students may have gotten jobs.
Between campuses in East Grand Forks and Thief River Falls, student numbers sit at 2,377. Of that, 1,404 students are studying online, though Kiddoo said many students are studying in a hybrid model. The decrease at Northland comes from students studying in-person, while online numbers are up.
The decrease isn’t limited to Northland, Kiddoo said. Comparable schools in the Minnesota State system are also down, as are two-year colleges nationally.
“Some of the urban schools might be up a little bit, but most two-year colleges across the nation are continuing to see enrollment declines,” Kiddoo said.
Administrators at Lake Region say they expect numbers to be on par with what they were last year despite a decrease. As of Aug. 27, 1,362 students were enrolled during the first week there, down from 1,444 in 2020.
However, last year Lake Region’s student numbers hit 1,771 and Erin Wood, director of college relations, said she expects final census numbers to be in the 1,700 range again this year, after students finish enrolling.
“The college has always worked with the motto ‘education any time, any place,’” Wood said. “We mobilize and bring programs where requested and needed.”
In previous years, Wood said about 500 students were studying on-campus, with the remainder being online students at Grand Forks Air Force Base. The college is also the largest and longest-serving dual credit provider in the state. The college partners with more than 50 high schools to offer students a chance to earn college credit while in high school.