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Monday, November 29, 2021
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Fall 2020 student enrollment largest in UW-Madison history despite COVID-19

UW-Madison posted its official enrollment numbers for the fall of 2020 on Tuesday, revealing that the student body has grown to an unprecedented size with its second largest class of first-year students in university history despite complications posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Student enrollment increased by a total of 4.6% over last year, assembling a student population of 45,537. 7,306 of the 45,537 are first year students, generating a total student population topped only once previously by the class of 2023. Fifty-two percent of the admitted freshmen this year were from 71 out of 72 Wisconsin counties.

"Our Wisconsin-resident freshmen are some of the brightest, most accomplished and most sought-after students in the country. We're thrilled they've chosen us, and we eagerly welcome them and their talents to UW," said Vice Provost for Enrollment Management Derek Kindle.

The university admitted 989 freshmen who are members of underrepresented minority groups — a 19.8% increase from the previous year’s 825 students who identify as Hispanic/Latinx, African-American, Southeast Asian-American or American Indian. Administrators noted a conscious effort to increase diversity on campus.

"Chancellor Blank has made it a priority to improve the experience of students of color and recruitment is a key part of that effort," said André Phillips, director of Undergraduate Admissions and Recruitment. "As we attract more underrepresented students, it's critical that the university continues to focus on increasing inclusion and equity efforts so that the entire campus community benefits from the talent and innovation that diversity brings."

These statistics show that the UW-Madison administration was able to bolster admissions — particularly among freshmen — even despite the current pandemic. Increased enrollment has arguably made the task of limiting COVID-19 cases more difficult for the Madison community as campus dorms, whose residents are overwhelmingly first-year students, have been hotspots for the virus’ spread.

Since the start of the academic semester, UW-Madison has struggled to contain COVID-19 on campus and in surrounding areas of Dane County. Approximately six percent of the entire student population has tested positive since classes resumed in early September.  

Those cases have been disproportionately found among first year students living in university residence halls,  leading administrators to issue a lockdown for Witte and Sellery halls on Sept. 9 amid concerns over rapidly increasing rates of infection. 

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