The University of Wisconsin-Madison saw a substantial increase in first-year enrollment and a 5% increase in overall enrollment. However, while the University of Wisconsin System’s first-year enrollment is up, overall enrollment decreased by 1% this fall.
According to the UW System President Jay Rothman, this was “not at all a surprise,” as “two of the classes in the pipeline right now were both pandemic related classes, so those classes were reduced.” Meaning, as large pre-pandemic classes graduate, the overall enrollment goes down.
While the majority of UW campuses have dipped in enrollment, UW-Madison (+5%), UW-Superior (+4%) and UW-Green Bay (+3%) all experienced increased enrollment for the 2022-23 year.
Although system-wide enrollment experienced a decrease, it was curbed by the growth at UW-Madison. UW System enrollment would have experienced a 3% decrease if it were not for UW-Madison’s increase. The decrease in enrollment is most prominently seen in branch campuses which have seen a 9% decrease in enrollment this year.
Rothman is aware of the challenges the branch campuses face and says that the statistics are consistent with community colleges across the country.
“We are focused on how we can do a better job to ensure that we boost the enrollment in some of those campuses, whether it be dual enrollment (high school students participating in college courses in the two year campuses),” Rothman said in a press conference. “UW-Green Bay, for example, has done a lot of work around that and you can see the growth in their numbers is significant.”
According to Rothman, the UW System is placing high demand programs in two year campuses to “further use” the resources available and address adult learners.
“We can use the branch campuses to help those folks reach their graduation levels if they desire to do so, as well as just reskilling and upskilling of adult learners,” he said. “Those are a lot of opportunities for those branch campuses working with the universities with which they’re affiliated to continue to prosper and fulfill the Wisconsin idea.”
The large number of out-of-state students may also explain why UW-Madison enrollment is increasing while other campuses are not.
“I think as the flagship, Madison certainly is attractive to a lot of out-of-state students, and we see that in the number of applications Madison had this year,” Rothman said. “It had over 60,000 applicants coming into the school. It actually reduced some of its admission numbers but its yield – the number of people who actually accepted – increased and I think that’s really healthy for the state.”
Despite the overall decreased enrollment in the UW System, Rothman remains positive.
“I think the pipeline is being restocked with the growth in the incoming class this year and we hope that momentum continues and we have strategies around trying to achieve precisely that,” he said.