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Fall Census Data Shows Growth in Key Areas

September 13, 2023

Census data is in and the University of Northern Colorado (UNC) is celebrating several wins for fall 2023, including gains in new student enrollment at all levels, the highest fall-to-fall persistence in over a decade and a steady increase in student diversity. 

One key area of growth is in student persistence and retention, something Vice President of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management Cedric Howard referred to as a critical measure of success and a tremendous accomplishment for the university. Fall 2023 numbers showed UNC’s second-highest fall-to-fall retention rate on record for new full-time students at 74.5%, coupled with the highest fall-to-fall persistence rates for all degree-seeking undergraduate students since at least 2009 at 84.5%. 

The university is also seeing a consistent increase in the number of Hispanic and Latinx-identifying students, currently at its highest of 26.3%, up from 25.5% in fall 2022. It’s an important data point as the university continues to make progress toward becoming a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI). With enrollment in this demographic group increasing, UNC has met the federal designation criteriathat the percent of undergraduate full-time equivalent students is at least 25 percent Hispanic students. The university's next step is to submit an application to become an eligible institution, which could come as early as February 2024, when the Department of Education’s Notice Inviting Applications is open. 

“UNC's relentless commitment to achieve HSI status is an inspiration,” said Tobias Guzmán, vice president of UNC’s Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. “As we continue to move toward the federal designation, we not only unlock opportunities for our faculty to apply for grants that support student success but also ignite a campus-wide dedication to elevate equitable outcomes for all students.” 

New student enrollment numbers also showed gains across the board, most significantly a 3% increase among new, first-year students, the first fall-to-fall increase since 2016. Some of that upward trend is attributed to targeted recruitment efforts that brought in more students from local areas, such as Weld and Larimer counties, which each saw a 22% increase, and El Paso County with a 37% increase. Compared to fall 2022, there were also increases in the number of transfer students, particularly from the Aims 2 UNC program, and the number of graduate students enrolling in new programs. 

Although overall enrollment for the university is still declining, the result of larger classes from prior years graduating which leads to fewer continuing students, Howard is confident that UNC will begin to experience increases in overall enrollment moving forward. He’s encouraged by the fall numbers and said they are the result of intentional efforts tied to the university’s strategic enrollment management (SEM) process. The SEM plan, implemented during the 2022-23 academic year, is a key action item in phase two of UNC’s strategic plan, Rowing not Drifting 2030. 

“The plan development provided a comprehensive and coordinated process that enabled UNC to identify enrollment goals that are aligned with its mission, its strategic plan, its environment and its resources, and to reach those goals through the effective integration of administrative processes, student services, curriculum planning, and market analysis,” said Howard. 

“Changes in the admissions function were necessary to enable UNC to fulfill its mission of being a top-tier comprehensive university with a focus on student success. The fall 2023 census data is a positive reflection of UNC’s collective effort to put students at the core of the learning experience.”

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