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Colleges and Universities Education Kent County

DSU enrollment bumps up record for 2023

Katie Tabeling
Delaware State University Riverfront Wilmington Delaware DSU

The state’s only historically Black university announced that 6,451 students have enrolled for fall 2023, a bump of 3.5% from last year’s student body. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

DOVER — Delaware State University continues to make strides to hit 10,000 students by 2030, and its most recent enrollment numbers continue to break its previous record.

The state’s only historically Black university announced that 6,451 students have enrolled for fall 2023, a bump of 3.5% from last year’s student body. Fall 2022 was a historic semester for DSU, as it saw more than 6,000 students for the first time in its 130-year history.

“The race for talent is on, and we have to be prepared to meet our students where they are,” DSU President Tony Allen said in a statement. “If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that a full portfolio of quality educational offerings, new ways to learn in and outside of the traditional classroom, and a commitment to educating and training students who look like the smaller, more connected world we are becoming is the key to long-term success. We feel very good about our trajectory.”

During a September DSU Board of Trustees meeting, Allen reported that about 1,800 freshmen and transfer students enrolled, marking it the largest class to arrive at the university to date. In 2022, DSU celebrated a record 1,400 first-year class.

Of the 750 first-year, in-state students, 79% are INSPIRE Scholars. The INSPIRE program has helped thousands of Delawareans attend college, with more than half of its recipients from Kent and Sussex counties, which has both the smallest population of Delaware’s three counties and the lowest bachelor’s degree attainment rate. In 2021, the program was expanded to cover the entire four-year program for a student.

However, Allen was cautiously optimistic about the enrollment figures, noting that college enrollment has continued to drop over the last 11 years. For the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic started, the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center found that undergrad enrollment has increased — though not by much. Initial fall 2023 undergrad enrollment nationwide is up 2.1% from the previous year and is 1.2% above 2021 enrollments.

“We have overcome some notable trends in higher education,” Allen said in the press statement. “As we have seen impressive growth in our enrollment since 2017, we have also seen the national trend going in the other direction. We continue to monitor the falling rates of college attendance nationwide and the steady declines in high school graduates due to lower birth rates in the United States.”

In addition to growing its undergraduate class, DSU has boosted its graduate student profile by 7% to nearly 900 students and an online student body of 800 students – more than 40% come from the Caribbean. 

Allen told the DSU Board of Trustees earlier this fall that DSU has just under 500 students in Jamaica, a program that sprung from a hybrid learning project launched in January 2020. In August 2022, the first cohort of Jamaican graduate students received diplomas. Last year, the Jamaica program expanded with an associate degree program.

“Those students are quite passionate. They are mostly graduate programs, such as master’s and doctorates in education,” Allen told the board in September. “So these folks are actually professionals, some of which are senior professionals in the country.”

The enrollment figures come at welcome time, as it confirms DSU’s status as a rising institution in higher education. The U.S. News & World Report’s 2024 Best Colleges list placed DSU as the third public HBCU in the country and the ninth overall, tied with Claflin University. Retention is a key figure measured in these rankings, alongside factors like graduation rates and social mobility.

Mirroring this growth, DSU has also announced it would be raising tuition to $8,538 annual tuition cost, or $10,953 total with required added fees. Delaware’s HBCU would still be lower than other in-state schools and other nearby HBCUs like Morgan State University, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Cheyney University of Pennsylvania, and Lincoln University.

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