Total student enrollment for the fall semester at Western Dakota Tech in Rapid City is up significantly over last year, a report released Monday from the South Dakota Board of Technical Education shows.
According to the report, Western Dakota Tech had the highest percentage increase in enrollment for both total student headcount and full-time students, but the lowest number of students among the state’s four technical schools.
For the 2019 fall semester, WDT has 1,247 full-time, part-time and dual-credit students — an increase of 158 students from fall 2018. That translates to a 14.5% increase over the previous year.
For full-time students, WDT saw a 7.2% increase, at 830 students for fall 2019, compared with 774 in 2018.
Dr. Ann Bolman, president of Western Dakota Tech, said the increased enrollment reflects changes at the school.
“We are certainly encouraged by the numbers, and it really has to do with several programs we have initiated over the past few years,” Bolman said.
She said WDT has been moving toward better aligning courses offered with the career fields students are choosing. Bolman also credits new approaches to admissions, financial aid and student accounts as drivers of increased enrollment.
“The front process has been adjusted to be very user friendly, very student friendly so that students get a lot of assistance and questions answered in a very responsive admissions department,” she said.
Additionally, Bolman said the work being done through WDT’s Student Success Center has been key.
“The funding we received for our success coaches and the commitment to student retention has also benefited what we are doing here,” Bolman said.
While the percentage increase for enrollment leads the state, WDT significantly trails Lake Area Tech in Watertown, Mitchell Tech and Southeast Tech in Sioux Falls in full-time students served.
The report shows Lake Area Tech has 1,901 full-time students, Southeast Tech has 1,858 full-time students and Mitchell Tech has 1,079 full-time students.
Bolman said WDT will continue to grow and adjust course offerings to spur higher enrollment.
“One of the biggest areas we are seeing a need is in health care,” Bolman said. “We recently started a registered nurse program to help meet that need, and we see that growing as well.”
Statewide, 7,122 full-time, part-time and dual-credit students are enrolled in technical schools for the fall 2019 semester — an increase of 7.3% from the previous year. The report shows a slight decline statewide in full-time students — from 5,675 in fall 2018 to 5,668 in Fall 2019.