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Over One Year Into Pandemic, Penn State Enrollment Remains Strong

Despite still showing a slight decrease in overall enrollment, Penn State’s demographics are diversifying thanks to a rise in total enrollment of underrepresented students. International enrollment remains steady despite seeing declines nationwide.

Overall Penn State enrollment is down only 1% from last fall, equating to roughly 902 students. The university’s total enrollment sits at 88,914 students.

Enrollment is down 2.7% from fall 2019’s pre-pandemic figures. However, University Park enrollment is up 2.2% from 2020 and up 0.4% from 2019.

Fall 2021 undergraduate enrollment saw 18,704 new students across both first-year and transfer students. This is a 0.9% increase from 2020 and a 1.8% decrease from 2019.

These numbers are a good sign for Penn State. The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center’s newest report shows that there was an average 3.2% year-over-year decline in undergraduate enrollment in the U.S. The national spring semester average enrollment decline was 5%, the largest drop in a decade.

Penn State’s Commonwealth Campuses saw a 6.6% decline in enrollment. This was attributed to factors like evolving demographics and readily available online learning.

Due to online learning, Penn State’s World Campus saw a 1.4% increase in enrollment. An estimated 650+ Commonwealth Campus students decided to switch from in-person learning to the online opportunities that World Campus offers.

Despite the overall decrease in undergraduate enrollment, 2021 saw an increase of minority student enrollments for the third straight year. This includes Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, American Indian/Native Alaskan, and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander students. This increase was fairly large at a 3% rise from 2020.

For international enrollment, the U.S. has seen a 16% decline between fall 2019 and fall 2020. Meanwhile, Penn State saw an 11.4% dip between fall 2019 and fall 2020 but an a 0.8% increase from 2020 to 2021.

While there was a 10.2% decrease of new international undergraduates, the international graduate student enrollment saw a whopping 64.3% increase. This, in addition to a 197.8% rise of new international undergraduates enrolled in World Campus, accounts for the minimal increase in international enrollment.

Penn State saw 61% of new students opt for the new test-optional admissions process, which gives students the option to submit SAT and ACT scores. This policy saw a 22.7% increase in first-year applications. Test-optional admissions will remain through 2023, according to Penn State.

Graduate student enrollment saw a 1.2% decline from 2020 with a total of 13,873 enrolled for fall 2021. The College of Medicine saw a 1% uptick from 2020, with enrollment totaling 995 students.

Law school enrollment between Dickinson Law and Penn State Law increased 35.9% from 2020 with 894 students.

Pennsylvania residents make up 59.3% of total enrollment, as opposed to out-of-state and international students, who make up 40.7%. This reflects a 2.1% increase of students who are not from Pennsylvania.

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About the Author

Caitlin Burns

Caitlin is a senior majoring in English. She watches Dance Moms from the beginning three times a year and thinks she's a barista because she can make one drink from Starbucks. She can usually be found taking a nap or being unreasonably angry at small inconveniences. You can contact her at [email protected]


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