System officials released preliminary estimates Thursday that show 26,442 first-year students, including freshmen and first-year transfers, were enrolled as of the first day of classes this fall. That compares to 25,602 in 2018; 25,937 in 2019; 24,407 in 2020; and 25,869 last year.
Overall enrollment, however, is down about 1%, from 162,980 last fall to 161,430. UW-Green Bay, UW-Madison, and UW-Superior showed enrollment increases. UW-La Crosse was even. The rest of the system schools show a decrease, according to the estimates.
The system has seen overall enrollment drop in recent years due to fewer high school graduates and uncertainty created by the pandemic. According to system data, 2010 saw 182,090 students enrolled on the first day of fall classes, the most of any year between 2007 and 2021.
System President Jay Rothman said system officials are looking to boost enrollment by making the ACT optional for admission, waiving application fees for needy students, offering college credits to high school students who attend classes at the system's two-year schools and promoting the Wisconsin Tuition Promise, a program set to begin in the fall of 2023 that funds tuition and fees for four years for students coming from families making less than $62,000.