Dickinson State University’s fall semester enrollment increased 5 percent from last year.
It’s a small but significant increase as the College on the Hill rebuilds its reputation under a new administration following years of enrollment and foundation scandals.
DSU President Thomas Mitzel said Tuesday that fundraising efforts by the DSU Heritage Foundation – formed last year after the old DSU Alumni and Foundation was forced into receivership by the North Dakota Attorney General’s Office – was essential in helping recruit new students to the university.
“You never want to have to start a new foundation, but by doing so I think we were able to target some very nice scholarship packages for students,” Mitzel said.
DSU said in a statement Tuesday that its headcount enrollment is 1,386, with 69 more students this year. Its firstyear class enrollment is 450, a 7 percent increase from the 2015 fall semester.
Transfer student numbers are also up. This year, DSU has 181 new transfer students, an increase of 24 percent over last fall.
“That means that kids who started elsewhere are still seeing the value of coming to DSU,” Mitzel said of transfer students. “That helps us a great deal.”
Mitzel said a 5 percent increase was his administration’s goal, and DSU hit it despite rebuilding much of its admissions department under Melanie Tucker, the university’s vice president of student affairs and enrollment management.
Mitzel said the Heritage Foundation gave more than $750,000 in scholarships this year and has the capacity to give more.
He said coaches in the athletic department were essential in the increase, touting the Heritage Foundation’s new merit scholarships allowed them to bring in more students.
“If they’re good students, we want them,” Mitzel said. “I actually think that helped the coaches.”
Under Mitzel, DSU is embracing a modest and likely long rebuilding process that dates back to the February 2012 enrollment scandal, when it was first revealed that the university had hundreds of international students that didn’t mean minimum admission requirements or lacked official transcripts, and others who received unearned degrees.
Mitzel said it helped that many Dickinson community members stuck by the university through its tougher times.
“They’ve just been magnificent. The community has got to take a bow for this too,” he said. “You can’t have an institution without community support. For everything that has happened in the last few years, the community has done nothing but step up and show it’s support, show it’s enthusiasm. That’s been wonderful.”