By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
The COVID pandemic is largely to blame for a 3% decline in the University of Wyoming’s enrollment in the last year, a UW spokesman told Cowboy State Daily.
According to census data collected on the 15th day of classes, UW has enrolled a total of 11,479 students this semester, down 3% from the overall enrollment of 11,829 last fall. The 15th class day is used because it falls after the class drop/add deadlines, and after the first tuition and fee payment is due.
University spokesman Chad Baldwin said that there were various reasons for students leaving the university, but all of them were related to the pandemic in some way.
“Regarding the overall enrollment decline, we know that we lost hundreds of students last year because so many classes were taught online due to COVID-19 and because of the campus pandemic restrictions, not to mention the financial difficulties the pandemic caused for students and their families,” he told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday. “We’re working to re-recruit as many of them as possible, but research shows that once students pull out of college, a good number of them don’t return.”
The drop in nonresident students has been most pronounced, with a total of 3,644 students from out-of-state attending UW this fall, compared to 3,844 last fall.
There are 568 first-time nonresident students in this year’s class, down 6.7% from last fall’s 609.
During the 2020-21 school year, the university had limited in-person classes and events due to the pandemic. This year, the university board of trustees has implemented and indefinitely extended a mask mandate for anyone on campus.
The university has not implemented a vaccine mandate for either employees or students, but have created an incentive program for those who are vaccinated and also report it.
The university reported this week that the number of first-time students from Wyoming attending the university has grown by 11.5% this fall, contributing to an overall 3.7% increase in UW’s first-time student enrollment.
Some 909 students from Wyoming have enrolled in the state’s university for the first time, up from 815 the year before and topping the pre-pandemic number of 902 in fall 2019. As a result, the total number of first-time students this semester has grown to 1,477 from 1,424 last year.
“Our favorable in-state, first-time numbers are a reflection of intensive recruitment efforts and a return to a traditional fall semester with fewer pandemic restrictions, among other things,” Baldwin told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday.