Enrollment Holds Steady at CSU Despite COVID-Era Challenges

Tiana Kennedy | Assistant Vice Chancellor of External Relations

New student enrollment increased this fall at Colorado State University’s Fort Collins and Pueblo campuses, reflecting student desire to return to on-campus learning despite the ongoing challenges of attending college during a pandemic. At the same time, the CSU System also saw jumps in the number of students attending online through CSU Global, CSU Fort Collins, and CSU Pueblo. The campuses shared their preliminary enrollment numbers with the CSU System Board of Governors at its meeting today. Final enrollment numbers for the semester will be reported at the Board meeting in December.

“Our campuses have worked extremely hard to be fully open this fall because we know the experience of on-campus learning is essential to many students,” CSU System Chancellor Tony Frank said. “We also know there are still students who are waiting to continue their education because of the ongoing effects of the pandemic. Some high school students are taking a gap year, and some students are holding off their return to campus for a bit. We’re working to support every student’s needs as well as we can, including a wide range of options that allow people to earn their degrees on campus or a distance – whatever works for their circumstances.”

CSU’s flagship campus in Fort Collins enrolled its third-largest entering class ever, with 5,177 students.  Undergraduate transfer student enrollment increased by 15% over Fall 2020 while the total student headcount increased by 143 students. The total student headcount for Fall 2021 is 32,908, with CSU Online seeing its largest enrollment ever (4,328) and on-campus enrollment increasing by 0.4%.  Graduate and professional student enrollment held steady. Perhaps not surprising in a time of economic uncertainty, the College of Business at the Fort Collins campus saw the largest percentage increase (8.6%) in student numbers among all of CSU’s academic colleges.  One in four students identifies as racially minoritized and 23% of undergraduates identify as a first-generation student (neither parent completed a 4-year degree). The number of first-time undergraduates returning from their freshman to sophomore year increased to 85.7%.

In addition to increasing enrollment, in 2021, the campus recorded the highest number ever of racially minoritized and first-generation students earning degrees. The university’s overall 6-year graduation is 68.2%, with 80.6% of those who graduate doing so in 4.5 years or less.

“We have seen first-hand how much our students want to be here at CSU, learning alongside peers and in classrooms, labs, and maker spaces with our faculty,” said President Joyce McConnell. “I’ve personally talked to so many students who are excited to be on campus, whether this is their first in-person semester or a welcome return to the in-person experience they signed up for. We are committed to meeting our students’ needs and to providing them with an amazing college education, whether that’s through online or in-person learning or a mixture of both. I am indeed heartened by our positive enrollment numbers, but also want to do even better when it comes to supporting all of our students from the moment they enroll until the moment they receive their diploma.”

CSU Pueblo saw new student enrollment increase by 4.5%, with increases in new undergraduate, graduate, and transfer student populations. The total headcount for Fall 2021 is 3,633, an overall decline of about 85 students from the previous year when the Pueblo campus saw a record level of student retention. The strong new student numbers include a significant (18.3%) increase in graduate students, a result of the campus’s new and expanded graduate programs, which are part of its Vision 2028 strategic plan. The campus also is seeing a nearly 11% increase in a number of online credit hours that students are taking this fall, driven both by the pandemic and strategic efforts to expand flexible course options.

CSU Pueblo President Timothy Mottet noted: “We are beginning to see the results of our hard work, and that is encouraging, especially during the pandemic and much uncertainty. Vision 2028 focuses on what matters, including developing a differentiated student experience, designing learning and support systems that will allow our students to be successful, and investing in our people.​”

CSU Global, the System’s fully online university, is on a different enrollment cycle than CSU’s brick-and-mortar campuses, but it has seen strong monthly growth in new student enrollment numbers over the course of the fall.

“CSU Global is unique in that our enrollment cycles are ongoing, and we enroll students every day throughout the year,” President Pamela Toney said. “This, coupled with the fact that our eight-week-long courses begin every month, really puts students in the driver’s seat of their education. They can make progress on their goals, or even pause them, on a schedule that fits into their busy lives. And if they’re unsure of their next steps, their dedicated student success counselor is available to guide them along the way.”

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