SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Enrollment at two of South Dakota’s three off-campus state University Centers fell in 2011, declines officials mainly attribute to spring flooding around Pierre and the relocation of a Sioux Falls nursing program.
Capital University Center in Pierre saw a 28 percent drop in credit hours last summer after the Missouri River swelled over its banks in early June 2011. The disruption also affected the subsequent fall and spring semesters at the center, which moved to its own $3.5 million site in 2009, with credit hours down about 14 percent in each, said director Ron Woodburn.
“We saw some folks who had to withdraw from the summer session because of the flooding, just because they didn’t know how they were going to be affected,” Woodburn said. “With a non-traditional student base, something like that can be really disruptive to lives. So there was probably some carryover from that.”
South Dakota’s University Centers in Pierre, Sioux Falls and Rapid City, which deliver courses through the state’s public higher education system, have shown steady growth over the past few years.
But University Center-Sioux Falls served 270 fewer students this past fall, as the University of South Dakota’s nursing program moved to the Sanford USD Medical Center campus, said executive dean Mark Lee.
The school in Vermillion is also transitioning its Sioux Falls nursing program from an associate’s degree to a bachelor’s degree, which is likely having a short-term effect on pre-nursing enrollments, he added.
Lee said if the center adjusted for the move, it would have shown an enrollment loss between 1 percent and 2 percent.
The dean says the school is looking into more education and science courses, as well as more undergraduate options.
University Center-Sioux Falls was created to serve residents of the state’s largest city, who faced 60-mile drives on Interstate 29 to get to either South Dakota State University or University of South Dakota. People working in the city wanted a local site where they could work toward degrees, yet South Dakota was the only state whose largest city didn’t have a public university presence, Lee said.
The center began offering classes on leased space on the Southeast Technical Institute campus.
“Clearly there was pent-up demand, because enrollment growth was really quite remarkable in those first four or five years,” Lee said. “That really signaled to the regents that we were onto something.”
In 2006, state legislators approved the establishment of a dedicated campus in northwestern Sioux Falls, which has grown to two classroom buildings with about 110,000 square feet of space and a 21,000-square-foot research center. The center still uses about 13,000 square feet of leased space at Southeast Tech for SDSU’s nursing programs.
Rapid City’s University Center, which moved into its own $13.4 million facility in April 2011, added 49 students this past fall for an enrollment of 1,758, said dean Craig Johnson.
More than half of the center’s students take classes offered by Black Hills State University, also in Rapid City.
The new 59,000-square-foot building, which houses 21 classrooms, 2 science labs, two computer labs and a 100-seat lecture hall, is spurring growth, said Craig Johnson, the center’s dean.
“Courses were a little spread out prior to the building opening up,” Johnson said. “Students love having a place to call their own, to be able to come and study.
The heads of three centers made their annual reports to the state Board of Regents this past week.