Penn State Sees Small Enrollment Decrease Amid Pandemic
September 21, 2020 3:30 PM
by Geoff Rushton
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The COVID-19 pandemic has so far had only a small impact on Penn State student enrollment, President Eric Barron told the university's Board of Trustees on Friday.

Across all campuses fall 2020 enrollment is 89,145, a decrease of 1,847, or about 2%, from the same time last year. The tallies do not include the College of Medicine in Hershey, Dickinson Law in Carlisle or Penn College in Williamsport.

At University Park, enrollment as of Sept. 10 is 46,423, a decline of 942 from 2019. Commonwealth Campuses saw a somewhat larger drop, with the current total of 27,159 a decrease of 1,499 from last year.

World Campus enrollment is up by 594 students to 15,563.

Deferrals and leaves of absence both increased for fall 2020. University-wide, 1,169 admitted students took deferrals, an increase of 741 over last year. Leaves of absence grew to 1,141, up 443 from fall 2019.

"So a significant portion of a difference in student numbers is actual deferrals and leave of absence which gives us hope that these are still our Penn State students and when they are ready, we will take them across the finish line," Barron said.

Student account payments are lower than the same time last year, but Barron said differences in timing make calculating actual change just yet difficult. As of Sept. 9, student account payments were at $386.9 million, a decrease of $22.8 million or 5.6% from fall 2019.

Barron said year-over-year differences can vary significantly based on when payment due dates occur.

"It will take us a little bit longer to know truly what those differences are," he said. "But again, this is a reason for some level of optimism as we see clear signs of how it is that students out there value that Penn State degree."

Financial aid disbursements were at $470 million, on par with the same time last fall. 

University Park residence halls are at 72% capacity, with 10,155 students currently living on campus. At Commonwealth Campuses, university residences are at 60% capacity with 3,617 student residents.

"This shows a significant portion of the financial pain that the university experiences is actually in housing and food services," Barron said.

University fundraising, meanwhile, has continued to fare well. Barron said that through the first two months of fiscal year 2020-21, receipts were at $35.2 million compared to $35.3 million during the same period last year.

Commitments were at $32.5 million compared to $34.7 million in 2019. Total donors were up slightly to 12,280, and increase of 147 from the same time last year.

Penn State finished 2019-20 with $381.3 million in gift commitments, a record high, and $290.3 million in receipts, the university's second highest total.

University research expenditures reached a record high in 2019-20, totaling $1.01 billion. That included a record $633 million in federal funding.

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