Colleges see record enrollment during COVID summer

Students in all areas of the country are flocking to online classes
By: | June 9, 2020
Enrollment is setting records at some colleges and universities as students take advantage of expanded online course offerings and flexible schedules.Enrollment is setting records at some colleges and universities as students take advantage of expanded online course offerings and flexible schedules.

Several schools, from large state flagship universities to small private colleges, have reported record summer enrollment even as the country grapples with a recession and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Officials at Georgia Gwinnett College (GGC) outside Atlanta reported a 14% increase in its summer enrollment in online classes, reaching the highest summer numbers in the school’s 15-year history.

“In times of economic trouble, people turn to higher education as a path to a brighter future,” President Jann Joseph said in a statement. “And with GGC’s affordability, quality of instruction and a convenient location to such a large population, we know that many people will turn to us.”

The school’s administrators also credited retention policies instituted last year that encourage first-year students to focus on a major or concentrated program of study.

Fall enrollment numbers are also looking strong, said Michael Poll, the college’s vice president.

Flagships also setting enrollment records

On the other side of the country at Arizona State University, summer enrollment jumped 16.5% (compared to 2019) with a record 56,000 students taking online classes. More than 1,300 of them are newly admitted fall 2020 first-year students, an increase of 74% from last summer, the university said in a news release.

[VIDEOArizona State University officials discuss record summer enrollment and the new courses being offered.]

The university added more courses, for a total of more than 5,200, including classes on the coronavirus. The courses also start on multiple dates to accommodate students’ schedules, administrators said.

Students “are choosing to approach our present reality as an opportunity to make progress on their academic goals,” Executive Vice President and University Provost Mark S. Searle said in a university news release.


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Indiana University Bloomington reported a record high enrollment of 12,604 students, a 22% increase from summer 2019. More than 33,ooo students have enrolled in online courses offered by the university’s campuses across the state.

At the University of Cincinnati, a record 19,708 students are enrolled in summer courses, with more of those students enrolling full-time.

Administrators expect those numbers to grow throughout the summer due to flexible course schedules that allow students to enroll in half-semesters or single-month courses in June, July and August.

“Right now, our summer enrollment numbers are above what the totals would have added up to in August in past summers,” Jack Miner, vice provost for enrollment management, said in a university web post. “That means this strong enrollment picture can only grow as we’ll continue to provide flexible study options for students as the semester continues.”

Some small privates also see summer surges

William Carey University in Mississippi reported record summer enrollment of 2,595 students, with its schools of education and nursing seeing the biggest gains.

“It is not surprising that the largest increases are in programs that lead directly to employment,” President Tommy King said in a university news release.


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At Otterbein University in Ohio, university officials say online learning has drawn in students who might not have otherwise enrolled in courses this summer, according to Spectrum News 1.

The university set a record for summer enrollment, with a 73% increase of about 180 students, the news outlet reported.

“There are a significant number of students that are home,” Jefferson Blackburn-Smith, vice president of enrollment management, told Spectrum News 1. “They can’t work, although now some of them might be able to get back into the workforce. And why waste that time?”


UB’s coronavirus page offers complete coverage of the impacts on higher ed.