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UW-L sets record for first-year students; overall enrollment drops

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Stryker high five

Stryker the Eagle greets students during 2021 move-in week. This year, UW-L is offering a much more traditional academic experience, with 90% of classes held fully in person.

The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse welcomed its largest first-year class in history this fall as campus continues to rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 2,207 first-year students are a record, topping the 2,194 first-year students enrolled in fall 2019. UW-L also enrolled 394 transfer students this fall, a 17% increase from last fall’s enrollment of 337.

Meanwhile, overall enrollment dropped by 1.5%, mirroring trends seen at other UW System institutions. UW-L’s fall headcount is 10,314, down from 10,468 in fall 2020.

Corey Sjoquist, assistant vice chancellor for Admissions & Recruitment, said the strong first-year numbers can be credited to the work of the Admissions Office, a reduction to UW-L’s application fee, and the widespread appeal of a UW-L education.

“We were able to have students come to campus and visit in a safe manner even through COVID, which really allowed people to get a sense of the energy and excitement of UW-L,” he says. “Between our staff, faculty, programs and facilities, when students and families come to campus and see what we can offer, they want to join the UW-L community.”

Class of 2025

UW-L's class of 2025 is its largest first-year class in school history. 

Chancellor Joe Gow praised the Admissions Office for its recruiting efforts, especially amid a pandemic.

“We have one of the most talented Admissions staffs in the country,” he notes. “Their ability to attain these impressive results during the pandemic is an inspiration to us all.”

Natalie Solverson, director of Institutional Research, Assessment and Planning, says the overall enrollment drop is tied to fewer undergraduate students returning to school this fall, as well as declines in enrollment for some graduate programs.

“That’s where we’re seeing a decline. Our returning undergraduate degree students are down over 3%,” she explains. “These challenges are being felt across the UW System.”

One factor drawing new and returning students to UW-L is the high percentage of in-person classes.

Earlier this year, UW System Interim President Tommy Thompson challenged UW campuses to hold 75% of their courses in person.

UW-L didn’t just meet that goal — it comfortably exceeded it, holding 90% of its fall 2021 courses fully in person and another 4% in a hybrid setting.

“This has traditionally been a brick-and-mortar campus with lots of in-person classes,” Sjoquist says. “We really stressed that with students and families as we were preparing for the fall semester, and I think it was a big contributor to their decision to enroll. They know the type of experience they’re going to receive.”

“We were able to have students come to campus and visit in a safe manner even through COVID, which really allowed people to get a sense of the energy and excitement of UW-L.”

Corey Sjoquist, assistant vice chancellor for Admissions & Recruitment

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