Enrollment update: Clear winners are emerging from pack early this fall

While others struggle, two big public universities are among a group savoring an abundance of new students.

A deep split continues to exist between the haves and the have nots in terms of enrollments in higher education, and many of the divides are occurring in the same states. For example, while Columbus State University has reported it is having to cut nearly 10% of its faculty because of declines, the University of Georgia in Athens is seeing soaring numbers on the strength of a record 6,200 new students.

There are many stories like Columbus State across higher ed this fall, institutions still reeling from years of sliding interest and the throes of the pandemic. But there are also many experiencing the highs of COVID-19 partially lifting, with international students returning and freshmen ignoring questions about the value of postsecondary education in the U.S. Universities such as Georgia are trying hard to ensure they can deliver on their promises, creating pathways to careers they are seeking and helping them gain real-world skills that matter to employers.

“Every member of this incoming class will engage in experiential learning activities such as internships, research and service-learning prior to graduation,” said Georgia’s Vice President for Instruction, Marisa Pagnattaro. “We’re working to expand hands-on learning opportunities for students and to provide scholarships to students who need them. We’re confident that the very bright class of 2026 will do great things, and we’re here to support them on their journey.”

Arizona State University is another powerhouse showing no signs of slowing down. On the strength of a 7% boost to its online school year over year and with in-person learning growing too, ASU is welcoming in nearly 6,000 more students than in 2021. All told, enrollment will surpass 140,000 this fall.

“ASU is growing because there is high demand for knowledge and a need for creative and effective solutions to the challenges facing our nation and our planet,” President Michael Crow said. “Students who are ready and eager to expand their intellect and to make a positive impact have a place at ASU. We welcome learners of all backgrounds, perspectives and interests, and we look forward to helping them thrive.”

For every State University of New York at Potsdam, which has seen enrollments drop 20% and is in the red a reported $3 million, there are others happily willing to share their successes. Texas Southern University and the University of South Carolina are both poised to bring in their biggest freshmen classes based on ballooning applications and agreements. Even some two-year institutions such as Wake Tech Community College in North Carolina, which boasts more than 70,000 students, are seeing their biggest influx of freshmen since the pandemic started.

“We’re all excited – students, staff and faculty,” Wake Tech President Scott Ralls said. “We can’t wait to see these students achieve their academic goals and eventually walk across the stage at graduation.”

More from UB: State-by-state FAFSA filing, two significant trends

Final data will be released during the fall, including at the University of Georgia, but numbers there are trending up, including percentage increases in students of color and first-generation students, while serving those inside the Peach State first and foremost (87%). It is also making a strong commitment to hiring and retaining new faculty and doing so in areas that are trend-setting such as artificial intelligence, computing, active learning, and cybersecurity.

“By connecting promising students with world-class faculty members who are the best and brightest scholars in their fields, the University of Georgia is contributing to the vitality of our state and world by educating the next generation of leaders,” said S. Jack Hu, senior vice president for academic affairs and provost.

Chris Burt
Chris Burt
Chris is a reporter and associate editor for University Business and District Administration magazines, covering the entirety of higher education and K-12 schools. Prior to coming to LRP, Chris had a distinguished career as a multifaceted editor, designer and reporter for some of the top newspapers and media outlets in the country, including the Palm Beach Post, Sun-Sentinel, Albany Times-Union and The Boston Globe. He is a graduate of Northeastern University.

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