There is reason to celebrate in Aberdeen.
As expected, Northern State University's fall enrollment took another big jump this year - from 3,296 students last fall to 3,580 this fall. Only Dakota State University in Madison also had an increase - from 3,101 to 3,102 - among South Dakota's six public universities.
The numbers from the other campuses:
South Dakota State: Fall 2011 - 12,725. Fall 2010 - 12,816.
University of South Dakota: Fall 2011 - 9,970. Fall 2010 - 10,151.
Black Hills State: Fall 2011 - 4,415. Fall 2010 - 4,722.
School of Mines: Fall 2011 - 2,311. Fall 2010 - 2,354.
It is nice for every community to shout We're No. 1 from time to time. But of course, Aberdeen and Northern State still have lots of work to do in building its student numbers.
The 9 percent increase good news out of Aberdeen is attributed to numerous reasons. We have a successful set of numbers increase due to an impressive set of work, NSU president James Smith said. The new enrollment figure is a direct reflection of Northern's work in strategic planning and targeted recruiting, he said.
What has made NSU's work even more impressive is that the state has pulled back on money earmarked for schools. Jack Warner, executive director of the Board of Regents, recently told us that the state has stopped funding universities from 57 to 39 percent over the past 11 years.
And as we responded a few days ago on these very pages: Our hope is for lawmakers to continue to look at education not as a drain but an opportunity and one that needs investment to remain at top levels of achievement.
NSU's continued progress - last year NSU grew from 2,672 to 3,296 - will be affected if cutbacks keep coming its way. Eventually, such cuts will leave impassable ruts.
Not only that, the news across town was just as good. Presentation College reported this week that its number of degree-seeking students has grown by about 60 students since fall 2010.
PC student suites as full as the NSU dorms, and for the first time in the college's history, the number of resident males is higher than resident females at Presentation. New programs, a new football program and hard-working recruiters are among the reasons for the increased number of students on the PC campus.
We are fortunate to have such vibrant, growing, opportunistic higher education schools in our community. Time for us to raise our glass to Presentation and Northern, and give them the words of praise they so richly deserve.
Then it is time to get back to work. We expect that growth to continue. That is our challenge to our leaders on those campuses - to try to raise the bar year after year, student after student.
But we in the community also must realize our responsibility in that challenge. Making Aberdeen, Brown County and South Dakota an attractive place for students, staff and faculty is all of our jobs.