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Overall UW enrollment falls for third year in a row, but first-time students are up

Three-story sandstone building stands in shade from nearby trees.
By ProgWork1 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Old Main, the University of Wyoming's oldest building and the seat of its administration.

Enrollment continues to fall at the University of Wyoming. The student headcount dropped more than 3.5 percent this year, continuing a three-year trend.

There are 1,147 fewer students enrolled now than there were in 2019 — a total decline of more than 9 percent. That decline mirrors national trends in higher education. But administrators told the UW Board of Trustees they are hopeful pandemic-era trends will soon reverse.

With the fall semester in full spring, UW has a final student headcount. The overall picture shows a drop in enrollment — 400 fewer students than the university had last year. The 3.5 percent drop took the student body from about 11,500 to 11,100.

Transfer student enrollment fell 6 percent last year and a further 9 percent this year; a trend explained by significant enrollment declines at community colleges.

"The reality is we're down overall, much more than we would want to be," UW spokesman Chad Baldwin told the board today.

But he added there are silver linings — positive indicators suggesting pandemic-era trends are turning around. For example, there was an increase in first-year students — the first increase since the pandemic began. There are more than 1,600 first-time students at UW this year, a 9 percent increase over fall 2021.

UW Vice Provost for Enrollment Management Kyle Moore highlighted the first-year increase in a presentation to the board, adding that the effects of the pandemic on earlier freshman classes are still being felt in the junior and senior cohorts.

"In 2020 and 2021, we had lower incoming student classes because of the pandemic," Moore said. "Well, those students are now progressing into their upper division coursework … and it makes sense that there would be a little bit of a trailing indicator off of those lower incoming classes."

The number of students seeking master's and doctoral degrees has also risen slightly, continuing a trend of rising graduate enrollment.

Jeff is a part-time reporter for Wyoming Public Media, as well as the owner and editor of the Laramie Reporter, a free online news source providing in-depth and investigative coverage of local events and trends.
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