Boise State sees an increase in enrollment despite national declines in university enrollment

Photo by Claire Keener

As universities across the U.S. experience continued declines in enrollment due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Boise State has reported an increase in fall enrollment as compared to last spring. 

According to numbers provided by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center (NSCRC), Idaho is one of seven states in the country to have seen an increase in university enrollment within the past year, with an overall growth of 0.4% enrollment state-wide.

Boise State’s fall census reports a total of 25,829 students enrolling in the 2021 fall term, which shows a 7.2% increase from last fall.

Enrollment is up 7.9% from last year for undergraduate students and 2.5% for graduate students. Boise State also saw a 2.2% bump in enrollment for online degree programs.

Boise State’s Director of Admissions Kelly Talbert attributed some of the university’s growth to out-of-state students. 

Boise State quad
[Photo of the Boise State Quad]
Photo by Claire Keener | The Arbiter

“Many students have been coming from the West Coast for many years now. I think we’ve increased our non-resident population [by] 27% in the last five years,” Talbert said.

Idaho Ed News reported that out-of-state students currently make up the majority of first-year undergraduate students at Boise State for the first time. The university accepted 1,686 nonresidents as first-time undergraduate students this fall compared to 1,517 resident students. 

Additionally, out-of-state students had a higher percentage increase in enrollment among both undergraduate and graduate enrollment, surpassing nonresident enrollment from years before the pandemic. Meanwhile, resident numbers have yet to reach pre-pandemic numbers.

Talbert also credited enrollment increases to the popularity of Boise as a place to live, in addition to unique programs and internship opportunities available at Boise State.

“I think it really helps that we’re in a capitol city and we have lots of internships and great experiences at hand,” Talbert said.

The university also saw a 1.2% increase in transfer students, with just under half of them being nonresidents.

Aurelia Lencioni, a sophomore kinesiology major, transferred to Boise State in the fall of 2021 after having attended a university in Montana. Lencioni was attracted to Boise State’s kinesiology department, including the Kinesiology Club.

“It was really important to me to find a university that really supported my major,” Lencioni said. 

Lencioni also felt that Boise State had better opportunities for involvement that she didn’t experience at her previous university. 

“I already have a leadership position for planning social events for the Honors College. I never got that opportunity at [my previous university],” Lencioni said. “I felt welcomed a little bit more at Boise State just in the social aspect.”

Boise State has also managed to maintain levels of enrollment for international students despite challenges like travel restrictions and visa issues throughout the pandemic.

The director of international admissions, Brian Stelbotsky, also credited specialty programs as draws for international students. 

“We offer some really unique programs and particularly at the graduate level, there’s a lot of interesting research going on that draws many of those students,” Stelbotsky said.

International enrollment is up 7.3% from last year among undergraduate students, and up 13% for graduate students. International enrollment in graduate programs has been on the rise for the past five years at Boise State, with only a slight decline in 2020, and current international graduate enrollment surpassing numbers from 2019.

Talbert emphasized the pandemic’s impact on college admissions and how admissions offices are adjusting to recruiting and admitting students in the midst of a pandemic. 

“The pandemic has shaken quite a few things up,” Talbert said. “It’s caused us to revisit what we do and how we do it and how we serve students. We’re really trying to take these past 18 months and hold on to some of the things that seemed to be valuable.”

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