Large increase expected in University Park fall enrollment numbers

May 19, 2016

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — After an unexpected increase in the amount of students who accepted offers of admission, Penn State's University Park campus could see freshman enrollment of about 8,600 students this fall, up from 7,599 in 2015 and 8,160 in 2014. In previous years, despite the fluctuations in first-year class size, overall full-time undergraduate enrollment at University Park remained near the 40,000 mark.

"Leading up to the May 1 admissions deadline, Penn State saw a surge in paid acceptances," said Rob Pangborn, vice president and dean for Undergraduate Education. "While there is always some flux in class sizes year to year, Penn State's popularity has grown. This year a higher than normal percentage of students who were offered admission chose to accept — a clear sign of the value that students and their parents attach to a Penn State degree."

In addition to the increased interest in Penn State, LionPATH — the new comprehensive student information system that Penn State is implementing — also may have played a role in the unexpected rise. Unanticipated ripples in getting the complex system to scale and mesh with major areas impacting student life at Penn State may have inadvertently created an increase in the rounds of admissions being offered. This is the first full admissions cycle under the new system.

“We are looking at ways to minimize the impact of a larger-than-expected class size at University Park because we understand the balance that the University needs to maintain within our community and also the capacity challenges that come with a larger incoming class,” Pangborn said. “This was not part of a calculated growth plan, but an offshoot of a number of complex factors that came together in a positive way.”

To prepare for the increased incoming class size, Penn State is looking at a variety of housing initiatives to accommodate the incoming freshman class, including supplemental housing options, which have been used in the past; allowing returning students to opt-out of their on-campus housing contracts without incurring a fee; and gauging interest from local students to commute from their family homes.

The University also is offering a limited opportunity on a first come, first served basis for some incoming freshmen who were admitted to the University Park campus to spend their first year of study at a Commonwealth campus through a “1+3” option. Students who choose this option would receive financial aid on top of the lowered tuition cost savings that can be realized by starting at a Commonwealth Campus. Additionally, a housing grant will be offered to “1+3 students” who choose to start their first year at a campus with available housing. Those campuses are Beaver, Greater Allegheny, Hazleton and Mont Alto.

"Education is one of the most important investments young adults will make in this life, and one of the largest investments," Pangborn said. "Because we recognize this, and because the demand for freshman spaces at University Park is at an all-time high this year, we are sharing this Commonwealth campus opportunity and other housing options with incoming students and their families."

In addition, Pangborn noted that due to the expansion of four-year programs offered at the Commonwealth Campuses, there are 600 fewer students transitioning each year to University Park to complete their degree programs than was the case five years ago.

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Last Updated May 19, 2016