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Arizona public universities see strong enrollment growth despite pandemic

(Phoenix, AZ) -- Arizona’s public universities continue to experience strong enrollment growth, bucking a national trend that has seen student numbers decline at other institutions.

According to the Fiscal Year 2021 Fall Enrollment Report issued today by the Arizona Board of Regents, a combined 204,460 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled this fall with Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University and the University of Arizona. That represents a 4.5 percent year-over-year increase compared with last year’s total enrollment of 195,672 students.

“Amid the most challenging conditions faced by higher education in decades, Arizona’s public universities have been national leaders when it comes to pioneering solutions that allow instruction to continue while mitigating risk to students, faculty and staff members,” said ABOR Chair Larry E. Penley. “As this pandemic will be with us for the foreseeable future, it will be critical that each of these institutions continue innovating to meet the evolving needs of today’s students."

Online enrollments across the three universities increased by 12,040, year-over-year. This growth offset a  decline in enrollment by on-campus, non-resident and international undergraduate students.

Key takeaways from the Fall Enrollment Report include:

  • Overall, enrollment at Arizona public universities increased. Total graduate and undergraduate enrollment at ASU, NAU and UArizona eclipsed the 200,000 milestone for the first time.
  • Enrollment increase was in online programs while on-campus undergraduate enrollment declined. Online degree program students now comprise nearly one-third of all enrollment across the system. On-campus undergraduate enrollment is down at all three institutions. On-campus undergraduate enrollment decreased 2.0 percent year-over-year from 118,561 in fiscal year 2020 to 116,162 in fiscal year 2021.
  • Resident enrollment increased despite the global pandemic. Arizona public universities saw a year-over-year 1.6 percent increase in Arizona-resident enrollment, from 104,494 to 106,194.
  • Arizona public universities first-time student enrollment declined year-over-year. First-time student enrollment decreased 3.6 percent year-over-year from 28,821 in fiscal year 2020 to 27,785 in fiscal year 2021.
  • A sizable number of students are attending the universities’ statewide offerings. Arizona public universities have nearly 4,500 students enrolled in degree programs at learning centers throughout the state.
  • Enrollment by historically underrepresented student demographics is on the rise. Since fiscal year 2017, an additional 15,528 Black, Hispanic/Latino and Native American undergraduate and graduate students have begun attending Arizona public universities.
  • Enrollment in education programs has surged. Arizona public universities continue to grow the next generation of classroom teachers. Enrollment in education majors increased 12.3 percent, year-over year, and surpassed 13,500 students across the system this fall.

“ASU, NAU and UArizona have done tremendous work to modify operations, adapt to changing conditions and deliver instruction to students wherever they are,” said ABOR Executive Director John Arnold. “These enrollment figures demonstrate students are still selecting Arizona public universities because they offer value and have earned trust through their response to this public health challenge.”


Sarah Harper, 602-229-2542, 602-402-1341 |