KU enrollment falls 2.8 percent

LAWRENCE — Enrollment at the University of Kansas fell 2.8 percent this year due largely to declines in international students and first-time freshmen, according to data released today by the Kansas Board of Regents.

KU has 27,619 students enrolled across all campuses, a decrease of 804 students from last year. More than half of this decrease is attributed to a drop in international students (down 18.1 percent). More than a third of the decrease stems from a decline in first-time freshmen (down 7.2 percent), which includes a 29.3 percent decline in international freshmen.

Today’s data show the one-year retention rate for last year’s freshman class is 85.7 percent – the second-highest rate in KU history – while the two-year retention rate for the 2018 freshmen is an all-time high 77.1 percent.

“Given the historic challenges the pandemic has presented students and families, we are pleased to have experienced such a relatively modest decline in our enrollment,” Chancellor Douglas A. Girod said. “To have limited the decline to just 2.8 percent speaks volumes of the great work our faculty and staff have done to create a flexible, dynamic educational experience that meets the needs of our students during such an uncertain time.”

While this year’s enrollment decline is modest, the university still faces significant immediate and long-term challenges due to the pandemic, Girod said.

“Though we are pleased with this year’s enrollment numbers, KU still faces an unprecedented revenue shortfall for the current fiscal year that will necessitate difficult cost-savings measures in the months ahead,” he said. “Moreover, this year’s decline in international students and first-time freshmen – and projected challenges in international recruitment for the foreseeable future – will continue to present severe revenue challenges for years to come.”

Items of note

  • Academic talent: This year’s freshmen matched the highest high school GPA of any class in KU history (3.64) and notched the third-highest average ACT score in history.
  • Graduation: 53 percent of the fall 2016 cohort graduated in four years, which is an all-time high.
  • Campus splits: The university’s overall enrollment drop of 804 students includes a decline of 665 students at the Lawrence and Edwards campuses (2.7 percent) and a decline of 139 students at KU Medical Center (3.7 percent).
  • Diversity: Minority students comprise a record-high 23.5 percent of the KU population. This year the percentage of Black students increased to 4.2 percent, the highest rate on record.
  • Individual school enrollments: The number of first-time freshmen enrolled in the School of Business is at an all-time high of 566 and comprises 14.8 percent of the entering freshman class. The number of first-time freshmen enrolled in the School of Engineering is the second-highest on record (626) and comprises an all-time high 16.3 percent of the entering freshman class.
  • National reach: Out-of-state students comprise 39.3 percent of overall enrollment, which is tied for the all-time high set in 2019. KU currently has students from all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
  • Edwards Campus: The Edwards Campus routinely evaluates enrollment by credit hours due to its mix of full-time and part-time students and other factors. Using the credit-hour metric, Edwards enrollment has increased 12.1 percent for Edwards-administered programs since last year and 39.5 percent over the past four years. Total student credit hours for fall 2020 is the highest in more than 10 years.
  • Military-affiliated students: There are 1,577 veterans, active military and military-connected (dependent) students enrolled for fall 2020, up 13.1 percent from last year.

View the full data report online.

The university is working to bring in next year’s class of Jayhawks. Prospective students are encouraged to visit KU Admissions and submit their admissions application by Dec. 1 to be automatically considered for scholarships.

(EDITOR'S NOTE: After using headcount as the unit of measure for many years, the Board of Regents in 2018 transitioned to a full-time equivalency metric. KU continues to use the headcount metric for the convenience of media, policymakers and others who are tracking KU’s year-over-year enrollment progress and want to make an apples-to-apples comparison with previous years’ data.)

Thu, 10/01/2020


Joe Monaco

Media Contacts

Joe Monaco

KU Office of Public Affairs