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Bismarck colleges report steady or increasing enrollment for 2021-22

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A group of Doctor of Nursing Practice program students walk on the University of Mary campus during the first day of classes on Tuesday. The students, already registered nurses, will graduate from the program in 2024. 

Bismarck area colleges are seeing steady or increased enrollment for the 2021-22 academic year.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused enrollment at some local higher education institutions to drop during the previous school year, but colleges this year are seeing numbers rebound and even break records.

The University of Mary, which started its year Tuesday, announced record preliminary enrollment. The school has 3,820 students enrolled, with 670 in its incoming class. This year's freshman class is 16% larger than last year's, according to Brenda Nagel, a vice president for public affairs who oversees enrollment. More than 60% of the university's students come from outside North Dakota.

The university's nationally ranked nursing program and other health science programs are some of the largest draws for students, Nagel said. The college is also starting to see its engineering program become more popular, and about 60 new students enrolled in it this fall.

Bismarck State College's enrollment is about the same as last fall, Dean of Enrollment Management Karen Erickson said. This year's preliminary enrollment sits at 3,552 students. Community colleges like BSC were among the most impacted higher education institutions, so having enrollment remain flat is something the college is excited about, she said. Numbers are down about 80 students from last year, but the college is still processing some high school students who take classes at BSC, Erickson said. Many students are from the Bismarck region, but the college serves students across the country and internationally with its online courses, Erickson said.

Nursing and other health science programs are among the most popular, while programs relating to the energy industry took a hit.

Erickson said the college's enrollment will likely change in the future as it transitions to a polytechnic institution and adds more four-year and online programs.

United Tribes Technical College's enrollment is up even from its prepandemic numbers, President Leander R. McDonald said. Some students might have delayed going to college last fall because of COVID-19 and enrolled this academic year instead, he said.

"We didn't know coming into this academic year where we were going to be in regard to enrollment," McDonald said.

This year's enrollment is about 29% higher than the fall of 2019, which had 435 people taking classes. Enrollment last year dropped to 327 students, due in part to the pandemic, and rebounded this year to 476. Most students are from North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana.

Business administration and general studies, which covers multiple disciplines, are among the college's most popular programs.

Reach Sam Nelson at 701-250-8264 or


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