UNI enrollment projected to increase within 5 years

UNI is projecting an increase in enrollment to about 10,821 students by 2026.

CAROLINE CHRISTENSEN, News Editor

Student population expected to rise to 10,821 by 2026, next fall predicted to remain steady

The three regent university presidents from Iowa, Iowa State and UNI recently met with a group of state legislators to discuss the future of their respective universities as well as enrollment projections. 

All three universities have seen a decline in enrollment over the past five years. However enrollment is expected to grow or stabilize in upcoming years. UNI’s total enrollment has been dropping since 2010, with the 2021-22 academic year seeing the lowest enrollment numbers since 1968. However, the low numbers could also be attributed to high numbers of students graduating early. Associate vice president for enrollment management Kristin Woods referred to the high graduation rate at UNI as a factor contributing to low enrollment. 

“We have another record year in terms of graduation rates for our students with higher three-year graduation rates and higher four-year graduation rates. When students are here for less time for their degree, it places downward pressure on enrollment,” she said.

UNI is expecting to see growth in student enrollment, starting with an uptick in the fall 2023 and a gradual 17% increase to 10,821 by fall 2026. President Nook shared with lawmakers their goal of growing the student population to 13,000 – which was reached a decade ago in 2011. Nook mentioned the economy as a major factor in enrollment projections.

“One of the biggest impacts on the University of Northern Iowa is the economy,” Nook said. “But we can’t expect that to continue forever. And as it comes back a little bit into more normal periods of time, we do expect our enrollment to come up.”

Nook also reported, “50% of our enrollment decline this year was international students. So getting the international students feeling comfortable to come back is really important.”

UNI’s enrollment projections are as follows: 

  • Fall 2021: 9,231
  • Fall 2022: 9,231
  • Fall 2023: 9,422
  • Fall 2024: 9,749 
  • Fall 2025: 10,202
  • Fall 2026: 10,821

Additionally the report projected “one more year of level headcount enrollment to account for relatively low entering cohorts from recent years.”

The report given to legislators states, “(The) projection reflects steady growth over this next five-year period, driven by robust recruitment and retention efforts and continued emphasis on the high value of a UNI degree as evidenced by low student loan indebtedness and strong career outcomes. This projected growth could be impacted by a variety of factors, including changes in federal and state policies.”

Low enrollment has greatly affected the university’s budget, with departments like theatre, social work, construction management and music struggling with adequate resources and funding. Provost Jo Herrera has acknowledged the lack of resources for these departments and emphasizes the importance of increasing enrollment to regain adequate funding. 

“We can overcome this,” Herrera said. “We do not want to play and risk spending money we don’t have, so we are a little cautious. We have to make due with what we have.”