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Enrollment in UW system down; ‘demographic trends’ likely cause

By Patrick Lynn

Enrollment in the UW system is down 2.6 percent from 2018, according to a study released by the system on Thursday.

Fall enrollment for the system totals 167,186 students, a dip from 2018, following trends for higher education enrollment on the national level, with fewer high school graduates and low unemployment rates in a strong economy.

According to a news release from the University of Wisconsin, overall higher education enrollment in Wisconsin has increased since 2010, from 48.6 percent to 50.8 percent in 2018.

“These preliminary enrollment numbers were not unexpected given the demographic trends,” said UW System President Ray Cross. “It demonstrates more than ever the need for investing in student success and building the talent pipeline to deliver the graduates Wisconsin needs.”

UW System produced a record number of graduates—36,825—in 2017-18.

Regent President Andrew S. Petersen called the system’s graduation numbers “a bright spot for employers and communities,” providing a “solution to the future career readiness challenges facing Wisconsin.”

“As we engage with our business partners as part of the ‘All In Wisconsin’ tour, we repeatedly hear that they are counting on our student graduates,” Peterson said. “Our success in retaining, recruiting, and graduating students is absolutely critical to all of us.”

Overall, preliminary fall 2019 enrollment in the UW system declined by 4,450 students compared to 2018.

The data also shows:

  • Preliminary overall enrollment at five four-year campuses increased;
  • Graduate student enrollment increased by 1.6 percent, to 24,717, an increase of 395 students;
  • New freshman headcount enrollment fell 0.8 percent, or 234 enrollments, to 28,319;
  • Overall headcount enrollment across all UW System branch campuses dropped to 7,286, a decrease of 25.2 percent.

Following the restructuring and full integration of campuses, UW system institutions are now including two-year student enrollments along with four-year student enrollments for the first time. Previously, UW colleges reported two-year student enrollments.

“We undertook restructuring to enable two-year campuses to maintain a presence in communities around Wisconsin and to provide students expanded opportunities,” Cross said. “Amid a strong jobs market, enrollment in colleges traditionally dips. However, we have succeeded in accreditation and a guaranteed transfer policy, which set these campuses up for future success. We continue our efforts to attract and retain students at all levels across the system.”

Find the 2019 preliminary enrollment figures here.