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Graduate students, transfers help boost UND's enrollment

Courses are meeting in the Chester Fritz Auditorium in order to accommodate for social distancing guidelines at UND. (Sydney Mook / Grand Forks Herald)

UND’s campus enrollment growth was driven by new transfer students and an increase in students seeking to further their studies through graduate school.

Last week, UND reported a slight jump in enrollment. The university’s fall enrollment is 13,615, according to data from the North Dakota University System. That’s up around a quarter of a percent over last year, when enrollment was 13,581.

One of the main drivers of the increased enrollment is graduate students.

UND also had a rise in the number of students transferring to UND from other institutions and graduate students, particularly online grad students.

UND’s overall graduate enrollment is 3,304 students, up nearly 400 from fall 2019’s enrollment of 2,909. UND’s graduate enrollment also set a record in the spring, according to Chris Nelson, associate dean of the UND School of Graduate Studies.


“Establishing a new enrollment record one semester after breaking our previous record is the very satisfying result of the efforts of so many across campus to make our high-quality campus and online graduate programs not only welcoming and attractive to prospective students but also programs that students want to stay in once they’ve started,” Nelson told UND Today.

Undergraduate enrollment

  • 2019: 10,163

  • 2020: 9,796

  • Difference: -367

  • Percent change: -3.61%

Graduate school

  • 2019: 2,909

  • 2020: 3,304

  • Difference: 395

  • Percent change: 13.58%

Law school

  • 2019: 206

  • 2020: 219

  • Difference: 13

  • Percent change: 6.31%

Medical school

  • 2019: 303

  • 2020: 296

  • Difference: -7

  • Percent change: -2.31%

Overall enrollment

  • 2019: 13,581

  • 2020: 13,615

  • Difference: 34

  • Percent change: 0.25%

Specific programs, such as UND’s College of Engineering & Mines and the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences, also saw a bump this year.
Undergraduate enrollment in the engineering school is at 1,857, with more than half of the students online. Graduate enrollment is at 357 in the engineering school, a 22% growth from last year. About 42% of those students are online.

Approximately 40% of UND’s new transfers are related to the College of Engineering and Mines, with 384 of the university’s overall transfer number of 956.


Brian Tande, dean of the College of Engineering and Mines, said there was some worry this fall that the college’s enrollment could be down as much as 10%, but he said the work of faculty, staff and other members of the college this summer made it possible for enrollment to rise.

While the transition to online education this spring wasn’t easy, Tande noted that the college has more than 30 years of experience with distance learning, so faculty and staff have experience teaching online and in other unique circumstances.

Increasing online students has been a growing trend for the college over the past decade, Tande said. Those online programs typically appeal to adult learners or those who don’t necessarily fit the typical college student age, between 18 to 22.

“We'll see if we stay there or if things return to normal and whether some of those online students would turn into campus students,” he said. “But there is a market out there for these adult learners, and we have some unique programs that aren't offered in very many other places, if at all. So, we've kind of developed a really strong niche and have worked out a lot of the details about how to educate students via distance.”

The John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences also set a record number of students this fall semester. Undergraduate minors across the college rose 58% to 130, while the school’s overall number of majors also went up, 8.8% compared to last year.

The school also has seen an increase in doctoral students with 49 students across the school’s four departments.

Beth Bjerke, associate dean of the school, pointed to the school’s efforts to safely bring back its flight operations programs in the spring.

“Our students have this passion for aviation, so they can live their passion and fly safely,” she said. “We put a lot of mitigation strategies in place to do that expertise with help from specialists in the state.”


Students and instructors fill out a screening form to see if they have been exposed to COVID-19 or have any symptoms of the virus. Temperatures are checked when someone arrives at flight operations. There also are extensive cleaning protocols in place, Bjerke said. Masks are required in the cockpit or when it isn’t possible to stay 6 feet apart.

Related Topics: EDUCATION
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