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Penn State Enrollment Continues to Trend Up at University Park, Down at Commonwealth Campuses

Enrollment increased for the third consecutive year at Penn State’s flagship campus and declined at the Commonwealth Campuses for the seventh year in a row, according to annual data released by the university last week.

At University Park, enrollment in residential instruction for fall 2023 is 48,535 students (42,223 undergraduate and 6,312 graduate), a 0.7% increase of 334 students from 2022.

Overall enrollment at the 20 Commonwealth Campuses is 23,682 (23,082 undergrad and 600 grad), a 0.8% decline of 231 students. The drop is, however, the smallest at the campuses in the last five years.

Commonwealth Campus enrollment has fallen by about 7,000 students since 2016, the last year they had an overall increase.

Enrollment in the World Campus — the university’s online program — decreased by 3%, or 415 students, to 13,564. Penn State attributed the decline, in part, “to fewer residential students opting for a temporary shift to remote learning than during the pandemic,” according to a news release. First-time graduate enrollments in the World Campus increased by 196 students (18%) and first-time undergrads increased by 60 (4.5%)

In total, university-wide enrollment for fall 2023 is 87,903, a 0.2% of 213 students. Overall enrollment is about 4% lower than the pre-pandemic total of 91,427 in 2019, though University Park enrollment has increased by more than 1,800 students in that time (3.8%).

Total enrollment includes 50,808 Pennsylvania resident students.

“Penn State continues to be a destination for Pennsylvanians and for students from around the world,” Justin Schwartz, executive vice president and provost, said in a statement. “Our status as one of the world’s top public research universities, our focus on student success and economic growth, an expansive reach of educational offerings through the Commonwealth Campuses and World Campus, the outstanding quality of our faculty, and the power of the Penn State alumni network continue to draw the best and brightest students to the University.”

Enrollment of students from underrepresented backgrounds — Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, American Indian/Native Alaskan, or Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander — continued to trend upwards, constituting 15.3% of total enrollment, compared to 14.7% last year. Incoming first-time and transfer undergraduate enrollment of underrepresented students increased by 409 students (3.9%) over 2022.

“The five-year trend in underrepresented student enrollment growth is a result of Penn State’s ongoing commitment to building a diverse student base,” Marcus Whitehurst, vice provost for educational equity, said in a statement.

Since 2019, enrollment of underrepresented students has increased by about 10%, or more than 1,400 students.

International student enrollment saw a dip of 252 students (2.5%) compared to 2022, when totals rebounded from a pandemic decline in 2020 and 2021. At 9,671 students, international enrollment is up from 9,229 in 2020. Penn State had more than 10,000 international students in 2019.

International graduate student enrollment is up by 4.1%, or 144 students, compared to last fall.

“Penn State continues to demonstrate its strength as a premiere destination for over 9,600 international students from more than 140 countries around the world,” Roger Brindley, vice provost for Penn State Global, said in a statement.

Growing enrollment, particularly at the Commonwealth Campuses, is a strategic goal for the university, which is “emphasizing a data-centric, research-based approach to its enrollment management and student recruitment efforts,” according to a news release. Penn State an Office of Enrollment Management in 2022 to oversee those efforts.

“Among the University’s key enrollment efforts is the opportunity to grow student numbers beyond attracting and retaining traditional-aged college students,” Matt Melvin, vice president for enrollment management, said in a statement. “This includes international students, adult learners, community college transfers and individuals who may have started college but didn’t finish their degree.”