Total enrollment numbers climb, freshman numbers dip

Total enrollment numbers climb, freshman numbers dip
A group of students walk past the Fryxell Humanites Center as they cross campus on Sept. 20. Photo by Abbey Stegenga.

Augustana witnessed a decrease in freshman enrollment this fall, as it welcomed 454 first-year students compared to last academic year’s 553. However, overall enrollment at the university experienced a 44-year high.

In 2022, Augustana achieved its largest freshman class of 553 students. In previous years, enrollment numbers hovered around the mid 400s.

The number of enrolled first-year students in 2021 was 467 students.

Adam Heinitz, associate vice president for enrollment management, said while this fall’s number of freshmen is smaller than 2022, it is still slightly higher than the five-year average.

“We were certainly aiming for a larger incoming class and something closer to our 2022 total.  As you can see from the numbers the past five years, enrollment can be quite volatile,” Heinitz said.

According to Heinitz, a wide variety of factors influence enrollment in any given academic year. This fall, fewer freshmen from South Dakota attended Augustana than in the two previous years.

“That could be a result of students looking to go farther from home, heightened competition from public universities that are offering more aggressive scholarships while freezing tuition and more colleges and universities making the growing Sioux Falls metro area a key recruitment priority,” Heinitz said.

The number of international freshmen also decreased this fall. Fifty-one first-year international students started at Augustana this semester in comparison to last year’s 68. Heinitz said this decrease was largely due to visa denials and delays.

“Some of those students hope to join us in the spring semester, but it did negatively impact our fall enrollment number,” Heinitz said.

Augustana welcomes a larger number of total students this fall in comparison to previous years. Graph by Abbey Stegenga. 

Despite the drop in freshman enrollment numbers, Augustana saw an increase in overall enrollment this semester, welcoming students from 24 states and 20 countries.

“There are 2,158 students enrolled at Augustana this fall. This is the highest in 44 years,” Joni Krueger, registrar and assistant vice provost of academic affairs, said.

Krueger also said the rate of first to second-year retention has increased from 82% to 83.5%.

“We saw a larger number of transfer students this year, more than we had expected, so that had a positive impact on our overall new-student enrollment number,” Heinitz said.

Augustana is working on various initiatives to attract prospective students in the coming years, including the launch of the Degree in 3 program and expanding faculty and student outreach into Sioux Falls schools.

“For this coming year, we are trying to raise money for Impact Scholarships. Those are the fully expendable annual Impact Scholarships to give our financial aid team more resources to use for partnering with prospective students and their families to choose Augustana to make it affordable,” President Stephanie Herseth Sandlin said.

Herseth Sandlin also said Augustana plans to invest in new majors and study programs. The university recently established a bioinformatics major and a minor in gender, sexuality and women’s studies.

“We have momentum on both fronts, with academic program development and the investment in new programs, with the collaboration and innovative ideas of faculty who are developing more interdisciplinary programs,” Herseth Sandlin said.

Popular majors among freshmen this year include biology, nursing, exercise science, business administration and psychology.

Augustana also intends to add new clubs and organizations to attract more students.

“We will launch a men’s and women’s hockey club in fall 2024, as well as a figure skating club. These clubs will be unique to Augustana, as we plan to have coaches that will be able to assist with recruitment for these clubs,” Heinitz said.

Heinitz mentioned plans to expand the esports club by adding more staff to assist in growing the number of games that the team competes in.

Another initiative emphasizes growing the Augustana School of Music.

“We’ve added a new admissions staff member, Kiley Coyne, who will focus on recruiting more students to our School of Music,” Heinitz said.