Iowa state Board of Regent-governed universities report five-year enrollment drop

The state Board of Regents reported that fall enrollment is on a five-year decrease, but is looking up with freshman classes on the rise.


Gabby Drees

Regent Milt Dakovich looks at his computer at a Board of Regents meeting at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, Iowa on Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021.

Kate Perez, News Reporter

Overall enrollment numbers are down across all three state Board of Regents institutions, continuing a declining student population for the past five years. But, the number of first-year students is increasing. 

A report from the regents outlines that:

  • Enrollment is down across all regent institutions, at the University of Iowa it decreased by 1.3 percent
  • There is increasing racial and ethnic diversity in Iowa and at the universities
  • There is an upward trend in new first-year students 

The declines over the past year are being driven by drops in international students and the sophomore and junior classes, Associate Chief Academic Officer Jason Pontius told the regents on Thursday. 

“This past year, [enrollment] ratings have dropped 2.5 percent and by over 1,800 students,” he told the regents. 

The number of students enrolled at the UI has dropped by 1.3 percent since fall 2020, going from 30,318 to 29,909 students. 

The international student enrollment at the regent universities has dropped by 49 percent in six years. The UI saw a 9.6 percent decrease of international students from the fall of 2020 to fall 2021. 

Along with this, the regent universities continue to struggle with the number of Iowa community college transfer students, except the UI who increased by 6.7 percent. 

“Transfer students will continue to be a challenge. Again, numbers dropped and Iowa fell in enrollments,” Pontius told the regents. 

RELATED:  Iowa regent universities report four-year decline in enrollment

The number of first-year undergraduates, however, is increasing for all of the regent universities, the report revealed. 

“For all three of our universities, that number has gone up over the past year,” Pontius said. “During COVID times, that is remarkable. It also sets a really nice foundation for the future.”

The number of graduate and professional students enrolled at the UI is also increasing. The university had a 3.6 percent increase from fall 2020 to fall 2021.  

Along with the increase in first-year undergraduates and graduate and professional students, the number of out-of-state students enrolled at the UI increased by 2 percent. 

Additionally, the number of students who identify as a racial or ethnic minority has increased over the past eight years at all three regent universities. 

There are a total of 11,917 students across all regent universities that identify as a racial or ethnic minority this year, which was up 0.5 percent from fall 2020.

“We are seeing a steady increase in the percentage of our total student body who identify as a racial or ethnic minority, not only in the student body, but in total numbers, it’s very positive,” Pontius said. “We see continued growth over the last few years, a good strong upward trend.”

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