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Bryan Horwath, Published December 29 2013

DSU enrollment drop leads to downsizing

DICKINSON, N.D. — Low enrollment figures at Dickinson State University have led to several downsizing measures on campus.

In addition to a change in operations at the main campus cafeteria in the Student Center, several floors in the school’s three residence halls will be shut down for the beginning of spring semester in January, said Marie Moe, director of enrollment services and communications.

“We’ll be closing two floors in DeLong Hall and one floor each in Selke Hall and Woods Hall,” Moe said. “Those changes will start in January, and they’re basically happening because of our student enrollment numbers, and the fact that we want students to have that college residential hall experience. That experience includes having roommates.”

Down from 675 five years ago, Moe reported that 233 students were living in DSU residence halls in the fall 2013 semester, representing less than half the current capacity of 550 available living quarters.

In addition to what she called the enhancement of students’ “campus life environment,” Moe said the university also will save money and energy costs when the halls are closed down.

In October, DSU reported an official head count of 1,449 students enrolled, and only about 16 percent of enrolled students at the university are living on campus.

With DSU’s total student enrollment down more than 40 percent in three years, the university is trying to regain some of that lost market share on the heels of the Higher Learning Commission’s announcement that the school’s accreditation was taken off “on notice” status earlier this fall. The notice was issued in 2012 after the school received a scathing audit that outlined problems with inflated grades, questionable tuition waivers, scholarships and spending.

Part of DSU’s plan moving forward involves the retention of David Black, an educational marketing and enrollment management coach with East Coast-based consulting firm Paskill, Stapleton & Lord. Black began his work with DSU in October.

“We have a bit of a public relations challenge in front of us, both internally and externally,” Black said. “It takes a very deliberate effort to build back an image and to enhance a reputation.”

Black added that the robust western North Dakota economy provides certain challenges to recruiting new students but also offers unique opportunities to market to people new to the area, people who may not be familiar with DSU.