Fewer freshmen, more grad students: The COVID generation changes college enrollment

Published: Sep. 20, 2021 at 5:11 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 20, 2021 at 5:32 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - First-time freshmen at UofL and other universities could be called the COVID generation.

During their high school years, they had to endure remote classes and a loss of socialization from canceled school activities.

Many come from homes where parents also had to deal with disruptions to jobs and income. As a result, their numbers on campus are smaller.

UofL reported Monday that the latest freshman class is 6 percent smaller than last year’s.

The university views it as part of a national trend where students are looking to save money and go to college closer to home.

“That additional investment to go far away and to live in a residence hall and to spend those additional dollars,” UofL Admissions Executive Director Jenny Sawyer said, “I think COVID did impact some of those decisions.”

At the University of Kentucky, freshmen numbers are reported as flat compared to last fall. But in the COVID-influenced environment, breaking even with last year is viewed as an accomplishment attributed to more aggressive financial assistance options.

“Probably the single-biggest barrier we found in the research we’ve done to students being successful is if they have concerns or worries about financial needs,” UK spokesman Jay Blanton said. “So if we can alleviate that, then we remove a big barrier to their success.”

While freshmen numbers were down, UofL also reported graduate school enrollment growing by 2 percent.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has been life-altering for so many, and we are encouraged that more students are seeking post-graduate-level degrees,” UofL President Neeli Bendapudi said in a statement. “It is such a thrill to see a vibrant campus once again, and we are confident of a bright future for all our students.”

Bellarmine, also concentrating on being more affordable and more attractive to local students, reports a 4-percent increase in first -time students and a 54-percent increase in students transferring from other colleges.

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