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Delaware colleges see enrollment return

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The University of Delaware and Delaware State University have seen enrollment numbers return, and in some cases surpass records set. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

Two Delaware colleges have seen enrollment numbers rebound since the COVID-19 pandemic pushed many college students to rethink plans — and hundreds of students have opted into graduate programs.

The University of Delaware and Delaware State University have both reported strong fall enrollment numbers. For the state’s largest university, it represents a return to pre-pandemic levels. For the historically Black university, the enrollment numbers represent continuing rapid growth.

UD reported total enrollment of 24,039 for the fall 2022 semester, representing an increase of 1.1% since 2017. UD’s enrollment was a five-year low of 23,613 students for the fall 2020 semester, when students had seen the previous school year cut short and then pushed to an online format for the remaining weeks.

“Enrollment numbers have returned to a ‘new normal,’ UD Vice President of Enrollment Management Rodney Morrison said. “There are long-lasting effects of the pandemic, combined with major demographic shifts, that will present challenges over the next few years.”

Meanwhile, DSU is trumpeting a strong start for the fall semester, with a total enrollment of 6,262. That reflects a 34% increase over the last five years. It also marks the first time in the HBCU’s history that it broke the enrollment threshold of 6,000.

“The best signal of success for any higher education institution is this: more students wanting to enroll, wanting to join our family, wanting to make their mark in a smaller, more interconnected global community,” University President Tony Allen said in a statement. “Regardless of what you look like, where you come from, or your financial means, we want a student profile that looks more and more like the country we need to be: inclusive, contemporary, and built for generations to come.” 

Both universities announce records for its largest freshman class to date. This year, UD recorded 4,632 first-year students, beating its previous record class from 2017 by 326 students.

Meanwhile, DSU has 1,452 first-year students, showing a near 35% increase over the past five years. In 2017, that class size was 950 students.

Elsewhere in the state, Goldey-Beacom College reported enrollment of 1,011 students and Wilmington University has 20,258 students enrolled this semester, as of Nov. 11.

Meanwhile, all Delaware colleges are seeing graduate or doctorate enrollment climb in the 2022 school year. WilmU, which sees a majority of non-traditional students attending online or commuting in rather than living on-campus, has 6,824 graduate students and 782 doctoral candidates.

Goldey-Beacom has 366 graduate students and 26 students, although the numbers won’t be finalized until the end of the semester.

UD has 4,557 graduate students enrolled this semester, continuing a trend seen from last year. In the years before the pandemic, graduate enrollment stayed around 4,100 students, only to break into the 4,500 range last year.

Meanwhile, DSU has 847 students in master’s or doctorate programs for fall 2022. In 2017, there were 302 students enrolled in those programs. But the HBCU’s success in that area may be attributed to its relatively new online program. Launched in 2017, there are 497 students categorized as online enrollment.

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