UI the only Iowa regent university to report enrollment spike in first-year class

Although the state Board of Regents reported an overall enrollment decrease this academic year, the University of Iowa saw a spike in the number of new freshmen enrolled.


Lily Smith

The Old Capitol is seen on Nov. 25, 2018.

Kelsey Harrell, News Reporter

As overall enrollment at all three state Board of Regents universities fell, the University of Iowa reported an increase exclusively in new first-year enrollment.

The 2019-20 academic year at regent institutions saw a 3.5 percent overall enrollment decrease, according to the regents’ enrollment report that will be discussed during the Nov. 14 meeting. Although enrollment at the regent universities has declined over the past three years, the total enrollment number is the sixth highest in the history of each institution.

The UI saw a 1.3 percent enrollment drop of 416 students. Decreased enrollment rates for this academic year were smallest at the UI, with the University of Northern Iowa reporting a 6.4 decrease and Iowa State University seeing a 4.6 percent drop, according to regent documents.

However, the UI saw a 3.7 percent increase in first-year enrollment, according to regents’ numbers, which show that ISU and UNI saw a decrease in this area of 7.4 percent and 11.8 percent, respectively.

As previously reported by The Daily Iowan, the UI Class of 2023 is 108 students larger than the Class of 2022. The increase led the university to use expanded housing for the first time since 2016 to accommodate a larger class size and an influx of on-campus residents.

RELATED: UI reports enrollment growth in class of 2023

The UI previously focused on its growth and becoming a larger institution but eventually outgrew its resources in the process, UI President Bruce Harreld said in a September interview with the DI.

“I felt that as I looked at the numbers that 4,800 to 5,000 [students] was a good number, which means that we aren’t growing the student body,” Harreld said. “I continually believe that excellence is a strategy for an institution like ours. Being 50,000 [students overall] instead of 33,000, we would not deliver the same resources for our students.”

Underrepresented student enrollment

Among new UI students, 21.9 percent are first-generation students and 19.8 percent identify as a member of an underrepresented group. The total enrollment of students at the three regent institutions who identify as a member of an underrepresented group reached 15.6 percent, which is an all-time high, according to the report.

“The academic quality of our students has been going up in recent years. We welcome first-generation students,” Harreld said in September. “We really want at least 20 percent of our students to be first-generation students, and we’re going to put the support systems in place so that students and their families know what comes with it.”

While those numbers increased, the regent institutions reported experiencing a decline in international student enrollment, continuing a trend that the UI has grappled with since 2016, when international students comprised 2 percent of the undergraduate population.

RELATED: Expanded housing returns as residence halls overflow

The overall decrease in international students was 15.2 percent for the regent universities, caused by a steady decrease in students from China, according to regents’ documents. A majority of the drop is from undergraduates — a 28 percent decrease from last year.

UI Provost Montserrat Fuentes told the DI in September that the UI is working to increase quality rather than size, emphasizing efforts to brand the UI as a destination university with a global reach.

“… Each college is looking at the capacity of the strategic enrollment plan to see areas that we still have capacity, but what I anticipate seeing is that we are going to be a very attractive destination for our state and beyond,” she said. “An area to work on is the international presence on campus. For that we need to be more proactive in creating partnerships with different countries and we also have great potential.”

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