Preliminary enrollment at University of Wisconsin System four-year campuses decreased 1.9 percent in fall 2020 compared to the previous year, a drop in line with demographic shifts and less than national estimates.

Enrollment of underrepresented students of color increased by 2 percent on UW System campuses.

In total, 164,494 students are enrolled at UW System’s 13 universities for fall 2020, the preliminary data show. UW System campuses experienced an enrollment decrease of 6 percent among first-year students, far less than the estimated 16 percent drop nationally.

“Amid the pandemic, and with fewer high school graduates, we expected a slight dip in enrollment,” said UW System President Tommy Thompson. “I’m gratified by these enrollment figures, which show that our students want to be able to continue their education as much as possible.”

According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, enrollment across the U.S. dropped 3 percent for fall 2020 and 16 percent among first-year students.

The UW System enrollment figures reported today represent the count on the 10th day of classes, the standard reporting figure.

Overall, the data shows 3,194 fewer students in the UW System in fall 2020 compared to fall 2019. About one-third is attributable to the two-year branch campuses.

“The pandemic has changed the way we operate, but we know our students value and demand the kind of education our universities can deliver,” said Regent President Andrew S. Petersen. “President Thompson, our chancellors, and all of our faculty and staff are doing all they can to provide that education in as safe an environment as possible.”

The data also shows that preliminary overall enrollment at three of the 13 four-year campuses increased.

In preliminary numbers, UW-Madison increased its enrollment from the 2019-2020 year by 490 students (1.1%) to 45,483. UW-Green Bay increased by 172 students (2%) to 8,968, and UW-Parkside increased by 45 students (1%) to 4,465.

UW-Milwaukee saw the biggest drop as it decreased by 1,417 students (5.4%) to 24,722. UW-Platteville had the biggest percentage decrease with 729 less students (8.8%) to 7,552. UW-Stevens Point saw the smallest change as it decreased by just nine students (0.1%) to 8,316.

Other falling enrollment for the 2020-21 year were — UW-Eau Claire, 11,015 (-169 or 1.5%); UW-La Crosse, 10,552 (-52 or 0.5%); UW-Oshkosh, 15,035 (-485 or 3.1%); UW-River Falls, 5,862 (-115 or 1.9%); UW-Stout, 7,970 (-423 or 5%); UW-Superior, 2,559 (-49 or 1.9%); and UW-Whitewater, 11,995 (-453 or 3.6%).

Also in the data — graduate student enrollment increased 1.9%, or 461 students; new freshman enrollment fell by 1,684 students; enrollment of underrepresented students of color increased by 438 and enrollment at two-year branch campuses fell by 989 students.

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