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University of Wisconsin Oshkosh saw only a slight decrease in enrollment for the fall semester, according to preliminary data released this month.

The 3.1% decline is in line with demographic shifts and national estimates and far below projections made last spring when the pandemic forced universities across the country to send students home and switch to online learning.

The data shows a decrease of 485 students from fall 2019 to fall 2020. Enrollment is 15,035.

Chancellor Andy Leavitt

“We have worked hard during the pandemic to ensure UWO remains an institution that safely engages students in a quality education that transforms their lives,” said UWO Chancellor Andy Leavitt. “I am particularly proud of our faculty and staff members’ focus on student retention as they adapt to new modes of teaching and service roles in this remarkable time. They are making certain Titans are supported in their continuous pursuit of degrees.”

Another bright spot for UWO is an increase of 30% in first-year students on the Fond du Lac campus, the largest increase of all two-year campuses in the System.

“The tremendous increase in the first-year students at the Fond du Lac campus is a result of both our strong relationships as well as the students’ recognition of the value of a campus close to home,” said Aggie Hanni, UWO’s assistant vice chancellor for enrollment management.

In total, 164,494 students are enrolled at UW System’s 13 universities for fall 2020, the preliminary data show. UW System campuses experienced an enrollment decrease of 6% among first-year students, far less than the estimated 16% drop nationally.

“Amid the pandemic, and with fewer high school graduates, we expected a slight dip in enrollment,” said UW System President Tommy Thompson. “I’m gratified by these enrollment figures, which show that our students want to be able to continue their education as much as possible.”

According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, enrollment across the U.S. dropped 3% for fall 2020 and 16% among first-year students.

Overall, the data shows 3,194 fewer students in the UW System in fall 2020 compared to fall 2019. About one-third is attributable to the two-year branch campuses.

“The pandemic has changed the way we operate, but we know our students value and demand the kind of education our universities can deliver,” said Regent President Andrew S. Petersen. “President Thompson, our chancellors, and all of our faculty and staff are doing all they can to provide that education in as safe an environment as possible.”

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