Increased enrollment for Arizona universities, going against national trends

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Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR) announced combined student enrollment at ASU, UA, and NAU grew 4.5% year-over-year and has eclipsed 200,000 for the first time. ABOR chairman Larry Penley discusses the increase in enrollment and the steps the universities have taken to stay open and ensure students feel safe.

“Bucking the trend”

Across the country, postsecondary enrollment has declined, but Arizona is “bucking the trend” with a 7.1% increase in undergraduate enrollment and 8.4% for graduate students at ASU, said Penley.

“What’s startling in many ways, and I think very encouraging, enrollment is up this fall 9% for Native Americans, Latinos, and African Americans,” Penley said. “And as we all know, they’ve been underrepresented, especially among students at the undergraduate level at our universities across the country.”

Penley attributes increasing enrollment to the “aggressive” push for online programs from the three universities. 39% of the over 100,000 students at ASU are now online, said Penley. The usage of online platforms, from shopping to education, has “increased fairly dramatically” in recent months.

“Business and universities that have been ready for that trend, with good online programs before the pandemic arrived, are seeing the benefit for that,” said Penley, who hopes that Arizona’s strong online presence will lead to greater student enrollment going into the future.

Why Arizona’s future needs resident students

Arizona’s economy is dependent on increasing student attainment within the state, with a goal of 60%, said Penley. Going into the future, the demand for college education and sophisticated skills will be increasing dramatically, and Penley believes it is of utmost importance that Arizona keeps up.

The number of Arizona high school students going for postsecondary education is lower than most of the country. According to data from the Arizona Department of Education, less than half of the student populations in 140 high schools moved onto postsecondary education in 2017.

Penley says that tuition costs for Arizona university are generally lower for residents. However, due to lower funding for universities from the state, the schools depend more on international students and non-residents to compensate — a model Penley says may be risky.

Larry Penley, Chairman, Arizona Board of Regents

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