KU enrollment increases due to growth in first-time freshmen, transfer students

LAWRENCE – Enrollment at the University of Kansas grew slightly this year due in large part to increases in first-time freshmen and transfer students, according to annual data released today by the Kansas Board of Regents.

KU enrollment increased by 66 students (0.2%), bringing the university’s total enrollment to 27,685 across all campuses. The slight uptick can be attributed largely to a 7.6% jump in first-time freshmen and an 11.6% increase in transfer students, as well as gains in new international students and strong overall retention rates.

This year’s freshman class of 4,119 is just six shy of the 2019 (pre-pandemic) freshman class size. These freshmen are the most talented in KU history, registering a record-high 3.66 average high school GPA.

Additionally, this year’s freshman cohort is the most diverse in KU history based on minority student headcount (1,031) and the second-most diverse in terms of percentage of the class composed of minority students (25%). This year’s record-setting minority headcount number represents a 5.3% jump from last year and is fueled by increases in African American and Hispanic population students.

This is the sixth year in the past eight years KU’s enrollment has increased from the previous year.

“We are pleased to have held steady on enrollment this year and to have seen growth in key areas such as first-time freshman and transfer students,” said Chancellor Douglas A. Girod. “This year’s data indicate we have weathered the worst part of the pandemic, which speaks volumes of the work our faculty and staff have done to recruit, educate and support students during such an uncertain time. More broadly, this year’s enrollment provides further evidence that students value the personal and career benefits associated with attending an international public research institution like KU.

“That said, we must remain steadfast in our efforts to recruit and retain top students and create a university they want to attend. The reality is, even before the pandemic, we were facing the national context of declining college enrollment, along with flat or declining population here in the Midwest. These challenges haven’t gone away, which is why the work we are doing to improve KU through initiatives such as the Jayhawks Rising strategic planning process is so important.”

Visit the Office of Analytics, Institutional Research, & Effectiveness website for historical data and trends.

Items of note

Campus splits: Enrollment at the Lawrence and Edwards campuses – which are counted together – is down 0.03% (six students) to 23,958. Enrollment for Edwards alone is up 3.8% (58 students). Enrollment at the KU Medical Center is up 2% (72 students).

Transfer students: The number of Lawrence and Edwards campus transfer students increased 11.6% (109 students).

Retention rates: The one-year retention rate for the fall 2020 cohort is 84.8% (third-highest on record). The two-year retention rate for the fall 2019 cohort is 78.3% (highest on record).

Graduation rates: 53.5% of the fall 2017 cohort graduated in four years (the highest on record); 64.9% of the fall 2016 cohort graduated in five years (the highest on record), and 66% of the fall 2015 cohort graduated in six years (the second-highest on record).

Diversity: Minority students comprise 24.1% of the KU population, the highest rate on record.

Military-affiliated students: There are 1,584 veterans, active duty and military-connected (dependent) students for fall 2021, an increase of 0.4%.

International recruitment: International enrollment on the Lawrence and Edwards campuses is up 3.1% (52 students). This is due to broad successes in KU’s international enrollment management efforts, which saw a 9% increase in international first-time freshmen, a 6% increase in new international transfer enrollment, a 5% increase in overall international graduate enrollment, and highly stable retention of continuing international undergraduate students.  

Individual school enrollments: The number of first-time freshmen enrolled in the School of Business is at an all-time high (668) and comprises 16.2% of the entering freshman class. The number of first-time freshmen enrolled in the School of Engineering ties the highest (644) and comprises 15.6% of the entering freshman class.

Looking ahead

KU is now accepting applications and scheduling campus visits for prospective students. We encourage freshman students and their families to apply by the Dec. 1 scholarship deadline.

(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, 09/30/2021


Joe Monaco

Media Contacts

Joe Monaco

KU Office of Public Affairs