Arizona State University just keeps getting bigger.
University officials are projecting another record year in terms of student numbers this fall, with over 140,000 enrolled for the fall semester, an increase of more than 5,000 students from a year ago.
ASU expects that during the first week of classes, it will have record enrollment university-wide, plus the largest first-year on-campus student cohort in school history, about 58% of whom are Arizona residents.
Nationally, many universities are continuing to see declining enrollment even as pandemic impacts wane, amid questions about whether a college degree is necessary in the job market. ASU, however, has seen sustained enrollment growth, even throughout the pandemic.
Total enrollment across the university is projected to be about 4.4% higher than a year ago, according to ASU.
ASU is likely to have over 79,000 students on its campuses, plus more than 61,000 students in an online degree program, with faster growth online, per early numbers. Close to one in three students enrolled at ASU this fall is new to the university, officials said.
Officials also are predicting records in terms of Arizona resident new students, veteran students and minority first-year students on campus. And one in three Sun Devils will be a first-generation college student.
It’s especially important for Arizona schools to boost enrollment for in-state students to help position the state for future economic success. College-going rates in Arizona have trailed the national average for several years, worsened by the pandemic.
ASU starts classes for the fall semester on Thursday. The other state universities start later: Aug. 22 for the University of Arizona and Aug. 29 for Northern Arizona University.
UA did not yet have enrollment projections available, and an NAU spokesperson said the university wouldn’t have that data until about three weeks into the semester when the official count happens. NAU last fall saw enrollment drop for the third consecutive year, while the other two universities grew.
ASU’s early numbers are projected enrollments for the first week of the semester based on student registrations. Numbers are expected to change up to the official headcount on the 21st day of the semester.
So far, the projected enrollments show another year of growth at a university that has sought to prioritize scalability and access.
Growth online and on-campus
Continuing a trend from recent years, ASU is seeing faster increases online than on-campus, although both are growing.
ASU will have over 61,500 students in online degree programs, about 4,000 students more than this time last year, for an increase of 6.9%. Over 45,000 of those online students will be undergraduates in online degree programs, an 8% increase from a year ago.
There will be close to 2,500 more students on campuses, for a total of over 79,000. That’s a 3.2% increase from last year.
ASU’s overall student body will have increased by about 36% in the past five years if projections hold, driven by a doubling of online students and nearly 9% growth in campus enrollment since fall 2017.
More new students on campus
Students new to college are greater in number, more diverse and more academically prepared than in previous years, according to the university.
ASU is expecting over 15,000 new first-time, first-year undergraduate students on its metro campuses, the largest group in school history. Officials say that’s a 6.4% enrollment increase from a year earlier.
Of those first-year campus students, about 46% identify as a minority, making up the largest number of minority first-year students ASU has seen.
And about one in four identifies as Hispanic or Latino, another university record. This summer, ASU announced the U.S. Department of Education designated it a Hispanic-Serving Institution, which means at least a quarter of undergraduate students identify as Latino.
The new first-year campus class is coming in with a 3.88 average weighted GPA, tying the ASU record.
Out-of-state and international students
As in recent years, ASU’s student body remains a geographic mix.
The metro campuses will see the largest Arizona resident class in university history, with about 8,750 new first-year students.
That Arizona resident number is an important one the universities focus on in terms of boosting college attainment in the state. In 2020, less than half of Arizonans graduating high school enrolled in a two- or four-year college, below both the national average and Arizona's rates for the previous few years.
About 5,315 new first-year, on-campus students are from other states, including 1,510 from California.
The in-state students represent a 1.8% increase from a year ago, compared with an 8.9% increase in out-of-state students, per the university.
Over 11,300 international students are enrolled to study at an ASU campus this fall, a 27% increase from a year ago.
International student counts are rebounding from losses during the pandemic caused by travel restrictions and visa changes. In August 2020, for example, ASU saw international student enrollment drop by about 15%.
Before COVID-19, the university had nearly 13,500 international students during the 2017-18 school year, putting it fifth nationally and the top public university for international student enrollment.
Among those international students, ASU expects to see 1,050 first-time, first year students on campus, which it says is an increase of 323 students, or 44%, from last year. The school will have more students from Brazil, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Mexico and Vietnam.
More than 10,000 veteran and military-affiliated students are enrolled this fall, a record number for ASU.
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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Arizona State University projects another record year for enrollment