Over 6 percent of Utahns are currently enrolled in higher education, making it among the top states in the nation for largest student body in relation to its population.
A recent report from withmydegree.org analyzed data from the National Center for Education Statistics between 2004-2014 and pinpointed where U.S. total college enrollment increased and decreased, which states saw the largest fluctuations in enrollment, and which states had the most concentrated population of enrolled students.
In 2013, Utah was among the top states—along with Washington D.C., Iowa and Arizona—which led the nation in percent of state population currently enrolled in college.
Enrollments continue to increase
This year, Utah’s public colleges and universities saw a 2 percent increase in enrollment for the 2015 Fall semester, citing the return of LDS missionaries. In 2012, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints changed the age at which men and women could go on missions, which resulted in a slight drop in enrollment at institutions in the Utah System of Higher Education (USHE). In Fall 2015, many of these returned LDS missionaries had found their way back to campus.
Also, in the next 10 years, enrollment at Utah’s public higher ed institutions is expected to increase by an additional 50,000 students.
Preparing for more students
Though the state currently has a high percentage of Utahns accessing higher education compared to the nation, Utah’s demographics are changing. The number of Utahns who access higher education must increase—particularly those from low-income and underserved communities—to ensure the state continues to thrive economically and all Utahns enjoy a high quality of life.
Keeping up with increases in enrollment growth is essential for USHE to have both the necessary capacity (such as course sections, faculty, support services, information technology, etc.) without unduly relying on tuition.
The 2016-17 USHE budget priorities reflect the anticipated need for increased capacity. Ensuring college is accessible and affordable is a top priority for Utah as a young, rapidly growing state.