MOORHEAD — Minnesota State University Moorhead is bucking a regional trend in growing its summer enrollment with promotional efforts yielding a nearly 40% increase in student numbers.

MSUM has gone from 2,167 students in the summer of 2016 to a 2020 summer count of 3,015, according to figures from the university. The push to attract more students to summer enrollment was billed as a way to “complete courses wherever you are,” the school said.

“If you’re going back home to your hometown during the summer, you can still take online courses,” said Lisa Karch, interim dean of graduate and extended learning at MSUM.

Karch led the campaign to inform students about why they should consider taking classes in the summer. Starting in 2016, when Karch came to the school, she and others saw results not experienced by other schools in the area over the last five years.

"Our biggest campaign is, ‘Get credit for summer,’" she said.

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Other higher education institutions in the Fargo-Moorhead metro have been on a downward trend when it comes to summer enrollment, according to data obtained by The Forum.

Concordia College went from 408 students during the 2016 summer to 338 this year. During the same time period, North Dakota State University went from 4,444 to 3,871. Minnesota State Community and Technical College (M State) had 627 students in its Moorhead summer program this year, down slightly from 655 in summer 2016.

Summer enrollment makes up less than half of what the fall semesters bring in at NDSU, Concordia and M State. MSUM’s summer count hit nearly 55% of its fall figure.

The summer counts aren't as large as the spring and fall semesters, MSUM President Anne Blackhurst said earlier this month during a local Chamber of Commerce event. MSUM had 5,532 students this fall.

The summer session is turning into its own semester due to promotional efforts by university staff, Blackhurst said.

Students requested more opportunities for summer classes in recent years, Karch said.

“It was a response for our students,” she added.

Karch also attributed the increase in enrollment to targeting students with messages about graduating sooner, lightening the load for other semesters and enhancing versatility.

That could include taking courses in other areas of expertise outside of intended fields of study or seeking certificates in other concentrations.

The summer also could be an opportunity for students to retake classes if they received a poor grade during the fall or spring, she said. Maybe students want to see if a degree will be a good fit for them, and the summer semester could be a chance for them to try out a course in that field, she said.

Staff, faculty and administration have started to meet and plan the campaign for the upcoming summer semester, Karch said.

“It’s very intentional strategies that are in place in letting our students know what is available in the summer,” Karch said.