Nov 5th, 2019 @ 8:29 am | Author: Alan D. LaFave, D.M.A.
Greetings from Valley City State University!
One of the most important measures and validations of a university’s success is enrollment. We have seen our fall enrollment numbers increase every year for the past 10 years, and in the last 4 years, our efforts to continue that growth have been very purposeful and focused.
Our faculty, administration and staff have been diligent in this effort. This focus has been centered on the notion of continuous improvement, with specific attention to recruitment, retention, student engagement and success, and quality academic and cocurricular opportunities, as we aim to create a community of scholars and learners, offer excellent advising, and provide an affordable higher education option with abundant scholarship offerings. This list of our goals and efforts, while not exhaustive, has been a big part of the discussion and work with our enrollment management team here at VCSU.
This fall we set enrollment records with a 1,665 total headcount and an undergraduate headcount of 1,524, breaking the 2018 records of 1,547 and 1,404 respectively. Our FTE (full-time equivalent) also increased over last year; we’re now at 1,164, compared to 1,096 in 2018.
VCSU is one of only two North Dakota University System institutions that grew in both headcount and full-time equivalent categories this year.
Taking a bit of a deeper dive into the numbers, it’s interesting to note that 54% of our students are face-to-face, on-campus students, while 26% are online only. The remaining 20% take a combination of face-to-face and online courses. While online is a preferred method of delivery for approximately a quarter of our students, 45% of our face-to-face students are not taking any online courses, and 47% of our online-only students are North Dakota residents.
We understand the importance of providing high quality in both face-to-face and online delivery methods and have implemented measures to address quality assurance in content and consistency in the online courses. This assures an online student of receiving the same, high-quality experience as our face-to-face students.
Retention plays an important role in the success of our overall enrollment management plan. As you might imagine, many hours are spent in the recruiting process identifying prospects; making initial contacts with them; inviting them to campus to meet with faculty, staff and coaches (if they are being recruited as athletes); giving campus tours; and maintaining regular communication all the way through the registration and orientation. With these extensive efforts invested in recruiting prospects, it becomes just as important for us to retain them once they become VCSU students.
Our retention rate for our first-time full-time students is also at a record high for VCSU. This rate, measured by the number of students retained from fall semester freshman year to fall semester sophomore year, was 72.85% this fall, nearly 5 percentage points over the 68.13% last year. A task force has been assembled to provide recommendations for actions and programs that will help our retention remain strong; this is a top priority.
These are very exciting times at VCSU! The record numbers represent the active choice that students make when they enroll. The numbers are also a positive indicator of the tremendous work being done by our faculty and staff, and the strong support we receive from alumni, donors and the Valley City community, along with the North Dakota University System and North Dakota Legislature. The personal attention that students receive both on campus and online makes for an outstanding education and tremendous value, and I’m so very proud of the people who make that happen.