BSC shows enrollment decline, future growth expected

Bismarck State College’s official fourth week enrollment report shows 4,109 students enrolled at BSC. This is a decrease of 6.4 percent from last year at this time when the college had 4,392 students enrolled.

The decline was not unexpected according to BSC President Larry C. Skogen. In 2011, BSC saw a historic spike in enrollment numbers — increasing 5 percent from 2010. Such a dramatic increase often is hard to sustain, he said.

Spikes and dips aside, BSC’s enrollment has increased steadily for more than a decade. Since 2002, enrollment has increased 30 percent, making BSC the third largest institution of higher learning in North Dakota, after University of North Dakota and North Dakota State University.

“While our national footprint has expanded through our online programs, our primary student population comes from the surrounding area and the area is certainly growing,” Skogen said. “I have no doubt that BSC will continue to do the same.”

Skogen noted, for example, that students enrolled in BSC’s energy programs grew due to the ongoing need for a skilled workforce to support the growing energy industry in North Dakota.

Of the total students enrolled this fall, 2,416 are full time and 1,693 are part-time students. Part-time student enrollment declined 3.9 percent, and full time declined 8.2 percent.

Two key factors are affecting enrollment: lack of housing for students – both on campus and in the community, and the robust job market.

“We certainly want all students to choose education over immediate job gratification, but like everyone else in North Dakota, BSC is being affected by our economy,” Skogen said. “While we continue to communicate the benefits of education to prospective students, we have a bit more control over our student housing situation.”

The college is conducting a housing feasibility study, and early indicators point toward the construction of a residence hall directly east of Lidstrom Hall on the north side of Edwards Avenue. The site is within the student life area of campus identified in the BSC master plan first drafted in 1978.

Bed capacity at BSC is 307, which serves only 15 percent of on-campus students – the lowest percentage in the state university system. The housing is fully occupied and the waiting list at BSC for the past four years has ranged from 20-120 students.

The college will begin the process for approval of new student housing with the State Board of Higher Education at its November meeting, and with the Legislature during the upcoming 2013 session.

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