University of Iowa enrollment down after intentional growth management

Enrollment is on the decline at Iowa’s universities, including the UI, following intentional efforts to manage enrollment growth.


Katie Goodale

UI President Bruce Harreld delivers his announcement during the Board of Regents meeting on September 13, 2018 in the IMU Main Lounge.

Elianna Novitch , Politics Reporter

After three years of intentional efforts to limit enrollment growth at the University of Iowa, this year’s enrollment numbers were down.

The UI recently welcomed its newest class of students to campus, composed of 4,806 students — 223 fewer than last year’s Class of 2021, which was the third-largest class in UI history. Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa also saw a drop in enrollment this year.

The decrease in enrollment comes three years after UI administrators implemented changes to the admissions process in an attempt to reduce the sizes of incoming classes. Among these changes was moving up the application deadline from May 1 to March 1.

The UI and ISU have intentionally managed enrollment growth over the last three years in an effort to focus on retention and increasing graduation rates.

“This class was put together with strategic intent, looking toward the long-term future of our university and the long-term future of these new students,” UI President Bruce Harreld said at Thursday’s state Board of Regents’ meeting.

Earlier this year at the February regents’ meeting, Harreld said that while the UI was not satisfied with its then 86 percent retention rate and 51 percent four-year graduation rate, the university had performed above the national average of 81 percent retention rate and 35 percent four-year graduation rate.

Along with limiting the sizes of incoming classes, the UI has also tried to build up programs aimed at assisting with retention and graduation, including Supplemental Instruction.

Harreld said at Thursday’s meeting that size reduction is a way to ensure sufficient resources are allocated per student.

“The University of Iowa growth in the size of our student body is not a strategic priority; our main pursuit is excellence and outcomes,” Harreld said.

While the size of the newest freshman class has decreased, approximately 21 percent of the class identify as first-generation students, meeting the UI’s goal of having at least 20 percent of the class made up of first-generation students.

Vice President for Student Life and interim Chief Diversity Officer Melissa Shivers said she was pleased to see that so many of the Class of 2022 were the first in their families to attend college. Shivers was a first-generation student herself.

“First-generation college students carry with them not only their own dreams but often the hopes and ambitions of generations of family, something I know well from my own experience,” she said. “We are proud to offer programs like Iowa Edge, which helps guide first-generation students during what can be an overwhelming orientation. The University of Iowa is committed to supporting all students and giving them every opportunity to thrive.”

More than 58 percent of the Class of 2022 are Iowa residents, matching last year’s enrollment of resident students.

“I’m delighted to welcome this outstanding new class to a campus full of possibilities,” said Sue Curry, the interim UI executive vice president and provost. “In the coming years, these students will make lifelong friendships, acquire new knowledge, and develop important professional skills. We are committed to supporting them and celebrating their successes every step of the way.”