Penn State enrollment sees modest growth in 2011

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- University-wide application and 2011 official enrollment numbers have increased at Penn State for the sixth straight year, maintaining the University's position as one of the most popular universities in the nation.

Penn State's total enrollment is 96,519 students, up 686 students from 2010, according to an annual "snapshot" count taken at the end of the sixth week of fall semester classes. Most significant is the second consecutive year of 20 percent growth of World Campus students, who are enrolled online exclusively. Penn State's 2011 online enrollment includes 10,314 students worldwide pursuing their studies fully online through the World Campus -- a 21 percent increase over 2010, following on the heels of a 20 percent increase from 2009.

Enrollment at the University Park campus has remained relatively stable in recent years and saw a net increase of less than 1 percent, or 377 students, in 2011. Dickinson School of Law enrollment held steady at 629, and the College of Medicine observed a slight decline of 1.6 percent, or 13 students, for a total of 787 students in 2011.

Commonwealth Campus student enrollment experienced a 3 percent decline, or a net decrease of 1,049 students across 19 campuses, in 2011. Part of this decline may be attributed to a decrease in nondegree students, including talented Pennsylvania high school students participating in the state's dual enrollment program to take college classes on a part-time basis, according to Rob Pangborn, vice president and dean for Undergraduate Education. Additional factors in the decline include the continued, long-term downward trend in associate degree enrollments, a decrease in campus graduate enrollments and the University's gradual, planned reduction of provisional student enrollment. Four of the 19 Commonwealth Campuses -- Berks, Brandywine, Harrisburg and Lehigh Valley -- saw double- or triple-digit increases in the number of enrolled students.

"Offering more four-year degree programs has resulted in incremental enrollment growth at the Commonwealth Campuses. Since 2005, the campuses in aggregate achieved success in growing first-year enrollments, although campus program portfolios, changing demographics and increased competition from lower-cost institutions have influenced individual campus enrollments," noted Rod Erickson,executive vice president and provost of the University.

As the University reported in 2005 to the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools' Commission on Higher Education, the percentage of Pennsylvania high school graduates going to college appears to have peaked, and is projected to continue to decline through 2014, as reflected in the decline of applications from Pennsylvanians over the last two years. Enrollment totals for this year reflect more out-of-state applicants and enrollees, including international students, at all Penn State campuses.

The trend of decreased college-bound Pennsylvanians and in-state student enrollment has long been projected by demographers, including Penn State President Graham Spanier. In a September 2003 speech to the University Faculty Senate, he said, "The number of Pennsylvania high school graduates dropped over the 20-year period from 1975 to 1995 by nearly 70,000 students to a total of about 119,000 -- one of the most profound demographic trends this state has ever seen." He added that projections, particularly after 2008, which combined a leveling of the rate of college-bound students and lower numbers of high school graduates, would add enrollment concerns to some of Pennsylvania's colleges and universities, when the "modern day peak year for college-bound high school graduates will pass.

"Although more than 80 percent of Penn State’s undergraduate students are Pennsylvanians, we nevertheless attract increasing numbers of out-of-state students as our national stature continues to grow," he noted at the time. "Given the stagnant demographics of Pennsylvania, competition for in-state students can only be expected to intensify."

During the 2010-11 year, Penn State received nearly 122,000 applications across the University -- once again a new record, with nearly 7,000 more than in 2010 and 13,000 more than in 2009.

Detailed enrollment information is available at the University's Fact Book at http://www.budget.psu.edu/FactBook online.

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Last Updated November 13, 2012