These colleges and universities are reporting record-sized freshman classes

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It’s back on campus time, and there’s great interest in whether college enrollment will rebound this fall, after a decade of steady decline that has led to a 9% national decline in undergraduate enrollment. , or about 1.6 million fewer students.

With concerns over the easing of the Covid-19 pandemic and institutions stepping up recruitment efforts, college officials hope to see a rebound in numbers, especially for first-time students. Several institutions — including major research universities, regional institutions, HBCUs and smaller liberal arts colleges — have recently reported preliminary enrollments and are touting record numbers.

Here’s a quick overview.

Oklahoma’s two public research universities saw record first-time student enrollment. Oklahoma State UniversityInitial numbers show at least 4,668 freshmen are enrolled in the class of 2026, an all-time high and an increase of more than 9% from last year’s freshman enrollment.

And the University of Oklahoma hosted over 4,700 incoming students, its largest freshman class in school history.

Arizona State University continues its record growth. It expects a total enrollment of more than 140,000 students, about 4.4% more than a year ago. ASU Projects enrolls more than 79,000 students on its campuses, as well as more than 61,000 students in its online degree program. New students are expected to reach 15,000, up 6.4% from last year.

At University of South CarolinaPreliminary numbers show 6,596 new freshmen enrolled for the fall 2022 semester, the largest class in its 221-year history and a 6.5% increase from last year.

The University of Kentucky expected to enroll over 6,000 freshmen, making it the school’s largest entering class and creating a housing crisis on campus.

The University of Georgiait is the class of 2026 is its largest ever, with more more than 6,200 freshmen begin classes August 17.

The University of Cincinnati predicted a record enrollment of 48,300 students when classes begin on Monday, August 22. This represents a 3% increase over last year and includes a record freshman class and a 16% larger entering class than the previous year.

University of Drurya liberal arts college in Springfield, Missouri, admitted 413 freshmen, breaking the old record of 406 set in 2010.

Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas, set its all-time enrollment record with nearly 15,000 students, up about 14% from 2019. Its freshman class is approaching 2,500 students, its highest ever number.

Freshman enrollment records have also been reported or expected at the University of Arkansas, North Carolina State University, Coastal Carolina University, George Mason University, Tennessee State University, Elon University, and Alvernia University.

Beyond the raw numbers, nearly all of the above institutions have also seen their entry classes set or approach new records for student diversity, in terms of racial/ethnic identity, first-generation status at the university or socio-economic background. As examples:

  • At the University of Cincinnati, the incoming class includes a 32% increase in first-generation students, a 23% increase in black students, and a 21% increase in Latinx students.
  • Nearly 25% of freshmen at the University of South Carolina are students from underrepresented minorities, with African American freshmen increasing 33% from the previous year and students Hispanic freshmen by 8%.
  • Approximately 46% of incoming Arizona State University students identify as a minority, the highest number of minority freshmen ever seen at ASU.

College officials have offered several explanations for the increase in the number of freshmen. A clear factor behind the success is that nearly all campuses are returning to normal operations, resuming in-person classes, and promising a greater sense of safety after two years of pandemic-related crises and adjustments.

Simply put, college campuses have regained much of their social appeal. Kevin Kropf, Drury’s Vice President for Enrollment Management, Marketing and Communications, put it this way: “We are grateful to have a sense of normalcy restored and our students are thrilled to be on campus with their friends and immersed in the Drury experience.”

Other campus leaders attributed the introduction of in-demand academic programs and the construction of new state-of-the-art facilities to their high numbers. University of South Carolina (USC) President Michael Amiridis cited his school’s affordability; USC has maintained the same tuition rate for four consecutive years.

It’s far too early to tell whether these freshman enrollment numbers are exceptions or a harbinger of an overall national increase in the number of incoming students. Are more high school graduates deciding to go to college? Will community colleges, the sector recently hardest hit by enrollment losses, see a recovery? Will graduate enrollment, one of the few bright spots of the past two years, be maintained? What will happen with international students? These are some of the key questions that need to be answered. We’ll know more in about a month.

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