September 26, 2023

CU Boulder fall enrollment up 2.9%

BOULDER – Total fall enrollment at the University of Colorado Boulder increased roughly 2.9% to 37,153, according to new enrollment data published Monday.

The figure is higher than recent projections due largely to lower than anticipated summer “melt” — when accepted high school students who plan to enroll don’t actually enroll — as well as record retention rates and an increase in first-year Colorado resident enrollment. 

The campus’s fall census marked undergraduate enrollment at 30,707, an increase of approximately 3.8% from fall 2022.

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The first-year undergraduate cohort of 7,546 students continued a multi-year trend of increased incoming student diversity, with incoming female students representing more than 50% of the class (up from 49%), students of color composing 30.4% (up from 28.7%) and first-generation students accounting for 16.1%.

“We are proud that CU Boulder continues to be a destination of choice for students and that our efforts to attract and retain diverse and talented students are succeeding,” said Chancellor Phil DiStefano, who announced his forthcoming retirement Tuesday. “We’re also attentive to the challenges posed by higher-than-expected enrollment and are committed to addressing the needs of students, faculty, staff and community members.”

New Colorado resident first-year undergraduates accounted for a majority of total undergraduate growth, increasing 7.3% to 4,035 students. This class marks the largest incoming resident class ever, surpassing the previous record of 3,762 Colorado resident first-year students enrolled in fall 2022. This year’s incoming cohort of Colorado resident first-year undergraduates also set all-time highs in the number of in-state students who identify as Black/African American (172 students), American Indian/Alaska Native (72 students) and Asian American (588 students).

Incoming transfers are up 6.8% from fall 2023, an unexpected result that doesn’t align with higher-education trends. Colorado residents make up a majority of the transfer population at 62%

Graduate student enrollment is at 6,446 students, a roughly 1.4% decrease from the year before.

“This fall’s enrollment class shows that predicting enrollment continues to be a challenge for institutions of higher education, as we saw a greater than anticipated number of students commit to and ultimately enroll at CU Boulder. We are identifying ways we can better predict incoming class sizes moving forward,” said Patrick O’Rourke, CU Boulder’s chief operating officer, in a prepared statement. “Our increase in resident students this year reflects that CU Boulder’s world-class academic experience is an attractive option for both Coloradans and students from across the country.”

Gains in student success are also prevalent in the census data, with records in multiple measures:

  • Second-fall retention, which measures students retained after their first-year, hit 89.1% in 2023 (previous record was 87.8% set in 2021)
  • Third fall retention peaked at 81.7% (previous record of 81.3% was set by the fall 2017 and 2020 cohorts)
  • The six-year graduation rate for the fall 2017 cohort is 74.9%, surpassing the 74.7% achieved by the fall 2016 cohort.

Enrollment changes will yield modest adjustments to preliminary budget projections, which will be reassessed with the new census data.

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