World Campus drives Penn State enrollment to all-time high

mdawson@centredaily.comOctober 28, 2013 

Enrollment across all campuses at Penn State has eclipsed 98,000 students, according to the university. The largest growth is not being seen in population at the University Park campus but rather the online World Campus.

MIKE DAWSON — CDT photo

  • TOP MAJORS

    Most popular majors at Penn State, as of fall 2012, with number of enrolled students:

    • 1. Nursing, 2,172 (includes lower division students and associate degree students)

    • 2. Information sciences and technology (includes lower division students and associate degree studetns), 1,748

    • 3. Psychology, 1,654

    • 4. Business, 1,244 (offered as a general major at branch campuses)

    • 5. Mechanical engineering, 1,201

    • 6. Accounting, 1,061

    • 7. Kinesiology, 1,026

    • 8. Finance, 914

    • 9. Electrical engineering, 787

    • 10. Liberal arts and sciences, 733

    • 11. Biology, 766

    • 12. Economics, 701

    • 13. Marketing, 689

    • 14. Journalism, 662

    • 15. Human development and family studies, 641

Penn State’s enrollment has increased to an all-time high of 98,000 students, and the jump over last year was fueled by growth in the university’s online education system, the World Campus.

According to the annual fall headcount earlier this month, the University Park campus has 46,184 undergraduate and graduate students, an increase of 833 from numbers taken last fall. There are 40,085 undergrads and 6,099 graduate students.

The World Campus saw 1,303 new students for this school year, which upped its enrollment 9 percent from last year to 13,287 students.

Penn State’s branch campus system saw a slight dip in its enrollment, from more than 39,000 last fall to 38,626 this year.

Altogether, the Penn State system has a net increase of 1,535 students, or 1.6 percent, over last year, to a total of 98,097.

The undergraduate population in the Penn State system stands at 83,170 students, a number that grew by almost 2,000 over last year.

Here’s a closer look at the enrollment figures:

• The number of undergrads at the University Park campus for this school year is 40,085, which went up almost 900 from last year. This year’s freshman class numbers 8,287 here and almost 16,400 systemwide.

• Graduate students number 6,099, which includes those enrolled in medical school and law school.

• The Dickinson School of Law saw its enrollment between the University Park and Carlisle campuses drop by 28 students. The law school admitted a smaller first-year class of 132 students this year, compared with 160 last year.

• The World Campus has 7,384 undergraduates and 5,903 graduates, figures that increased by about 9 percent over last year. The university said the robust increase demonstrates the popularity of online learning that is being seen nationwide.

Penn State has said it will invest $20 million over the next five years to grow the World Campus with the hope of expanding its enrollment and course offerings. The hope is to grow the the enrollment of the World Campus to 45,000 in the next 10 years.

Rob Pangborn, the university’s dean of undergraduate education, said the university is trying to target its enrollment so that the number of students at University Park stays around 45,000 and the total university enrollment falls in the range of 98,000 to 100,000.

Of the branch campuses, Penn State Erie has the most undergraduate students, at 3,943. The smallest campus is Penn State Shenango, in western Pennsylvania, with 568 students, all of whom are undergraduates.

Overall, the number of students among the branch campuses declined in 2013 from 2012, but university officials said the drop was largely from two reasons: fewer students enrolling in associate degree programs and fewer high schoolers taking courses at branch campuses near their homes.

There were only 15 fewer bachelor’s degree students at branch campuses this year than last year, and Pangborn said the number of first-year students at the branch campuses increased over last year by 350.

The enrollment at the branch campuses has been in a downward trend since reaching highs of more than 42,000 in the late 2000s.

Pangborn said Penn state officials are paying attention to the demographic changes across Pennsylvania, where the population of high school graduates is declining in all areas except the south-central region.

Pennsylvania residents still constitute a hefty majority of undergraduates universitywide, at 70 percent. At the University Park campus, the percentage is lower, at 63 percent.

Sixty-one percent of the freshmen at University Park this year hail from Pennsylvania, and New Jersey has the second highest representation. Of the 2,466 out-of-state students in the class, 1,105 of them are from the Garden State, or almost 45 percent.

International students made up 8 percent of the class, or about 1,300 students.

Overall enrollment numbers for international undergraduate students have been trending upward, quadrupling from 1,000 students in 2006 to 4,000 in 2012, Pangborn said.

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