Enrollment at several universities and colleges across Eastern Iowa and the state is shaping up to set records this fall, including at the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and Coe College.
Most schools are wary about releasing specific enrollment projections with several weeks to go before students arrive on campus, but UI President Sally Mason is predicting a record freshman class.
“The numbers are looking strong for this to be our largest class ever and the most diverse,” Mason said Friday during a news conference to announce external funding increases for the university.
Last year, UI reported a first-year class of 4,460, compared with 4,470 in 2012, and a total enrollment of 31,065, down slightly from its highest ever of 31,498 in 2012. Joseph Brennan, vice president for strategic communication, said Tuesday that the university is seeing growth in every category this year and at every stage of the process — there are more applications, more admissions, and more students in orientation.
As to what that means for total enrollment, Brennan said, the university is expecting to exceed last year's number but perhaps not the record set in 2012.
“It will be a big enrollment,” Brennan said, “perhaps the second biggest in institution history. But it's difficult to be precise at this stage.”
Iowa State officials on Tuesday said it's too soon to predict the size of the entering class, but they expect another record year for total enrollment when classes convene Aug. 25. Last year, ISU enrolled 33,241 students — making it the largest public university in the state for the first time since 1979.
That represented a more than 7 percent increase over the 31,040 enrollment in fall 2012, and this fall's total enrollment is expected to be “well over 34,000,” according to ISU Registrar Laura Doering.
If those numbers hold true, it will mark Iowa State's sixth consecutive year or record enrollment and eighth straight year of growth.
On the private front, Coe College in Cedar Rapids also expects to set records this year.
“We believe we are on par to have another historically large class this fall,” said Coe spokesman Rod Pritchard. “Last year we had record full-time enrollment, and we hope to have additional growth and enrollment this fall.”
Projections for growth and record enrollment come amid increasing competition among Iowa's higher education institutions and as colleges and universities locally and nationally are facing severe economic constraints.
UI officials, for example, have said they're stepping up marketing toward in-state students after the Board of Regents in June approved a new method for allocating state dollars that ties 60 percent of funding to in-state enrollment.
The University of Northern Iowa this fall also is projecting growth, based on its orientation numbers. But it doesn't expect to set any records, said UNI spokesman Scott Ketelsen. The number of freshmen participating in orientation this year is up 5 percent from last year, orientation numbers for transfer students are up 2 percent, and housing contracts are up 4 percent, according to Ketelsen.
“We have found that those numbers are good indicators of a strong inbound freshmen-transfer class,” Ketelsen said.
UNI's freshmen class peaked in 2008 when it topped 2,000 students for the first time, Ketelsen said. It dropped down to 1,722 last year, and Ketelsen said he expects numbers to rise above that this fall.
As for total enrollment, Ketelsen said, it's too soon to tell. UNI's freshmen and sophomore classes are trending up, while its junior and senior classes are down slightly. Like UI, Ketelsen said, UNI has done more targeting advertising in an attempt to bump up its numbers.
“Our goal is not to enroll every single student in Iowa,” he said, “but we are trying to let everyone know about what is going on up here. We think if more folks come up to visit, they have a tendency to enroll. We are just trying to spread the word.”
Mount Mercy University in Cedar Rapids is reporting expectations for “another solid year,” with new student totals expected to hold steady and graduate student numbers growing. Last year's total enrollment was about 1,760 students, including about 330 new students.
Robert Callahan, vice president for enrollment and student services at Mount Mercy, credited the bump in graduate students to two new master's degree programs — one in strategic leadership and one in criminal justice.
Cedar Rapids-based Kirkwood Community College, which saw its enrollment surge in conjunction with the recession in 2008, also is projecting steady enrollment this fall with between 15,000 and 15,500 students.
Kristie Fisher, vice president of student services for Kirkwood, said the community college hasn't been looking to grow after its enrollment surge.