Freshman class largest since 2017

After more than a year of masks, mandatory quarantines and missed events, Augustana welcomed the class of 2025 to campus with the largest number of first-year students since 2017.

According to Adam Heinitz, the assistant vice president for enrollment management, 467 first-year students arrived at Augustana this fall. Comparatively, the Mirror reported 319 in fall 2020. Heinitz said this is the third largest class in 40 years. 

“On all fronts we’ve been busy,” assistant director of admission Wendy Mamer said. “International, domestic undergraduate students and transfer as well. It’s just been constant.” 

According to Mamer, the freshman class has a record number of degree-seeking international students. Additionally, the number of students from the Sioux Falls area is up by 20%, making up 27% of the freshman class, or 126 students. 

Mamer said this influx of students can likely be attributed to a few different factors. First, the admissions office created new events this past year, including Admitted Student Day in April. Mamer said “a large majority” of students who attended ended up enrolling at Augustana.

Additionally, Augustana increased the amount of scholarship money students receive on acceptance, known as the “scholarship chart” to most.

These were aided by several new scholarships, including marching band scholarships and the Journey Scholars Program. 

“The change in the scholarship chart, the additional scholarships […] really showed that we were competitive financially with other state schools,” Mamer said. 

Mamer also said Augustana’s decision to remain in person for classes during the previous 2020-2021 school year was a contributing factor for some students. She said this resulted not only in a larger freshman class but an increase in transfer students as well. 

“The fact that we were open for visits and the fact that we were in person for our classes, for a majority of our classes, was a big driver for students to be interested in Augustana,” Mamer said.

Freshman Mattie Tschetter is originally from Rapid City and graduated from Stevens High School with more than 400 classmates. She said the size of her class at Augustana combined with many unfamiliar faces felt overwhelming at times.

“At Stevens, I knew most of my classmates, but here I only know a handful of them,” Tschetter said.

The third largest class in 40 years on campus combined with one freshman dorm temporarily closed had potential to cause problems for the university. Jenna Bump, the director of housing operations, found out last August that Bergsaker Hall was undergoing renovations this year, causing a big shift in what housing looks like. Bump reacted by creating a variety of housing plans depending on different enrollment numbers.

“I had to ask what buildings were going to make the most sense for different groups of students,” Bump said. “And so I think I had all the way until plan F.”

Bump’s current plan has freshman students in Solberg, Tuve and four floors of Stavig. Solberg has always been a freshman dorm, and Tuve has housed freshmen before, but she said the addition of Stavig helped for students that require access to accommodations like an air conditioner or an elevator.

Tschetter is living in Solberg Hall this year. She said she is grateful to be on the west side of the building, away from the new dorm site. She can, however, hear the construction each morning when getting ready for the day in the east side bathrooms. 

“It’s not too bad,” Tschetter said. “I definitely like being down here more than I would like being up in Stavig, just because I feel like it’s closer to all of the buildings.”

Overall, Mamer said this larger freshman class is part of a bigger trend as Augustana marches toward 2030. 

“As we look at the university’s Vision 2030, there are so many exciting things in our future,” Mamer said.

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