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Enrollment up slightly at UMD, Scholastica

The University of Minnesota Duluth campus as seen from the air. UMD has seen a slight increase in enrollment along with the College of St. Scholastica, while UWS has held steady and enrollment at LSC has declined. (file photo / News Tribune)

The 1 percent uptick in student enrollment this fall at the University of Minnesota Duluth is good news for the school, which has seen steady student decline since 2011.

During that period, enrollment dropped by about 9 percent through last year, a problem that contributed to serious budget cuts at UMD. The university is still dealing with that process as it looks to reduce academic expenses by $2 million for next year.

Whether the small increase that brings enrollment to about 11,000 is a sign of a turning tide remains to be seen, said Fernando Delgado, UMD's new executive vice chancellor for academic affairs.

"We certainly hope so," he said, pointing to a summer of a high number of campus visits, more aggressive recruitment efforts and a 7 percent increase in freshman students.

Enrollment trends are a mixed bag this year for area colleges and universities: The College of St. Scholastica is slightly up, similar to UMD, but the University of Wisconsin-Superior made no gains, and Lake Superior College has about 4 percent fewer students.

St. Scholastica's overall increase is 1 percent, putting it at about 4,400 students.

"It's good to be growing, even if it's a slow, gradual growth," said Eric Berg, vice president of enrollment management. "The higher education marketplace is extremely competitive right now."

The freshman class at the college was up more than 4 percent and came with higher-achieving students than the previous year. Many St. Scholastica programs are "really resonating in the marketplace right now," Berg said, including those in the health science field. The college also has increases in graduate and nontraditional programs.

Lake Superior College points to a tight labor market for its declines, said Mike Seymour, its vice president of academic and student affairs.

The school had projected a 4 percent decrease in students and has realized that with full-time equivalent enrollment at about 2,650. But it's in good shape with an increase in new students, Seymour said, and workforce development and College in the Schools students — high school students who get college credit through Lake Superior-taught courses — haven't been factored in yet.

Growth is seen in aviation, fire technology and over-the-road truck driving programs, with each up by 20 percent or more. Recruiters worked hard in the Twin Cities metro area to promote the aviation and fire-technology programs, which aren't offered in many places.

At UWS, having unchanged overall enrollment is a good thing, following more than five years of declines, officials say. The school's headcount stands at 2,520.

UWS, and the larger UW System, has struggled with budget cuts and declining enrollment, but it appears UWS "might be turning a corner," said Christopher Tremblay, vice chancellor for enrollment management.

The freshmen number is up for the second-straight year, and there are high transfer and international student numbers.

"We're doing a much better job of being visible," Tremblay said. "And we are targeting areas maybe we hadn't been in before."

The school has an increased presence in the Twin Cities, he said, and that has helped increase Minnesota enrollment.

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