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ND’s Two Largest Universities See Opposite Enrollment Trends


North Dakota’s two largest universities have seen enrollment trends in opposition directions over the past few years.

The University of North Dakota’s enrollment peaked at slightly more than 13,000 students in 2004. North Dakota State University’s enrollment has been growing.

This fall, UND reported a fall enrollment of 12,559 students, topping NDSU by 32. UND’s enrollment dropped 2.1 percent from last fall, while NDSU’s enrollment was up 2.2 percent.

The Grand Forks Herald, in analyzing enrollment trends of the two schools, said NDSU topped UND in in-state enrollment for the third time this year and had only 53 fewer non-North Dakota students than UND.

UND’s enrollment drop is part of a plan to better manage student numbers, said Bob Boyd, UND’s vice president for student and outreach services. In 2005, UND raised its admissions standards to try to keep more students who are better prepared for courses, he said.

UND’s strategic plan calls an enrollment of about 12,000 students on campus and roughly 2,000 more through online and correspondence courses. The school is near that goal now, though the online enrollment figure is artificially low because online students are not required to complete classes on a semester basis, Boyd said.

NDSU is not talking of capping its enrollment growth.

Prakash Mathew, NDSU’s vice president for student affairs, said the school is recruiting farther into Minnesota and Wisconsin and hopes to move into Iowa. He said NDSU is prepared to renovate classroom space and make other adjustments to handle more students.

“We haven’t set a number,” Mathew said. “This growth is happening.”

Mathew said he does not view UND and NDSU as competitors.

“We talk about all this competition, but I don’t see it,” he said. “Students who go to UND do it for a reason, and the same is true of NDSU. Students and parents have to find their niche.”

Said Boyd: “We’re not naive enough to believe that doesn’t matter to some people; of course it does. We have some very loyal alumni, and some will insist that we must be higher than other schools even if it’s only by one student. We appreciate that. But comparisons of that nature tell us very little other than that one number is bigger than the other.”

Boyd said NDSU and other state colleges and universities have developed more competitive programs, and NDSU has a geographical advantage when it comes to reaching into neighboring Minnesota, both schools’ largest source of out-of-state students, because it is closer to Minneapolis-St. Paul.

Mathew cited NDSU’s move to Division I in athletics and new programs.

“The last three to four years, our visibility has been much greater than ever before,” Mathew said. “Since President (Joseph) Chapman said, ‘Let’s move to the next level,’ that’s what we’ve done, not just in athletics, but in research and programs.”

Information from: Grand Forks Herald,

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