University Park, Pa. — Penn State's admission and enrollment figures have risen in nearly every category among undergraduate and graduate students, a panel of presenters reported to the University's Board of Trustees Friday, Nov. 21.
Total University enrollment for fall 2008 increased by about 2,000 students compared with last year, for a total of 92,613 students University-wide. More than half of this growth is from World Campus enrollment, which rose 22 percent since 2007. World Campus is Penn State's online presence. At University Park there are 1,200 additional students, up 2.8 percent. Overall baccalaureate student enrollment has increased by 15 percent since 2005. This growth is supported by an increase in students pursuing degrees offered through the World Campus. Although the number of online students is still small relative to resident students, the difference amounts to 46 percent growth over 2007.
"The increase in resident students was the combined result of a modestly larger incoming first-year class and an uptick in the number of students transitioning to University Park after two years of robust admissions at the campuses," said Robert Pangborn, vice president of Undergraduate Education.
Enrollment at the University's Commonwealth Campuses surpassed 2007's all-time high by 244 students, for a total of 33,393. Eleven of the 19 campuses saw increases in full-time-equivalent students. Growth in the number of associate-degree World Campus students — 15 percent over the previous year — helps offset some long-term declines observed among associate degree-seeking students at these campuses.
Resident graduate student enrollment levels dropped by 5 percent, or 501 students, compared with last year. However, Pangborn noted, "World Campus more than compensated for the decline by enrolling an additional 606 students, a 25 percent increase over last year. The World Campus has now surpassed the 3,000 mark in graduate enrollments. This can be explained by the growing national prominence of the professional master's degree, and the World Campus lends itself to professional education given that individuals interested in this type of degree are more often location bound," he added.
Enrollments at the University's medical and law schools also remain strong.
"Minority enrollment continues a 10-year trend of growth. In 1999, minority enrollment totaled 8,511 students, while this year's level surpassed 12,000, of which more than 600 are World Campus students,” Pangborn continued. Across the University, African-American student enrollment grew by 4 percent from 2007, and Hispanic student enrollment increased by 6 percent. "Today, minority students account for 13 percent of the overall University enrollment," he added.
International student enrollment levels have grown significantly in the last year in large part because of a 33 percent increase of international undergraduates, for a total that exceeds 4,000 students for the first time. Anne Rohrbach, executive director of Undergraduate Admissions, explained that although the number is still relatively low, undergraduate admission of international students grew by a rate of 60 percent from 2007 to 2008. International undergraduates comprise 6.7 percent of first-year students at University Park, with high levels of those students hailing from China, Canada, India, Korea and Saudi Arabia.
International graduate student enrollment also has grown significantly since 2007. An increase of 12 percent in new international graduate students upped this year's total for incoming students to more than 600 for the first time since 2001. Graduate students' likeliest countries of origin are China, India, Korea, Taiwan and Turkey.
"In recent years there has been considerable concern over the decline in international graduate applicants. Just as elsewhere in the U.S., we saw a decline in applications from a peak of 9,022 in 2003 to just over 6,000 in 2005," said Rohrbach. "Today that number has rebounded to 7,219; this number of applicants represents a sufficient pool of prospects from which to select outstanding students. However, we must not rest on our laurels, as other institutions around the world are making strong and competitive offers to our applicants."
Rohrbach also reported that total applications to the University, including all admissions categories, exceeded last year's record total and reached approximately 101,500 applications. This year, the rate of undergraduate applications is once again outpacing that of last year.
"We have already received more than 30,000 undergraduate applications for next year, up 6 percent over last year's record number of applications, and 11,000 more than just four years ago for an equivalent year-to-date," said Rohrbach. Graduate applications have surpassed a previous record total set in 2003. Overall, year-to-date University applications received are approaching 44,000, which translates to an increase of 5.1 percent compared with those received at this point in 2007.
About 90 percent of undergraduate applicants submit their materials online. Last year those students were able to accept their offers of admission online, and today students' admissions decisions also are accessible online, in advance of official offer letters, she added.
The summer and fall 2008 entering classes of first-year students at University Park total 7,300, a result of another high rate of students accepting offers of admission. Similarly high enrollment levels are continuing at several Commonwealth Campuses.
"We believe that re-emphasis of the 'two-plus-two' option of starting study at one campus and completing a degree at another campus, the opportunity to complete selected degree programs offered locally at the campus of entry, and the somewhat lower tuition rates may all play a role in students' attraction to the Commonwealth Campuses,” Rohrbach explained.