Though in the midst of one of the most challenging periods in the history of higher education, the University of Cincinnati will start the new academic year with its eighth consecutive year of record-breaking enrollment.
On Monday, August 24, UC began the fall semester with a carefully considered blend of online and in-person instruction for more than 46,400 students. That number marks a string of enrollment records for the Bearcats dating back to fall 2013 and equates to an 11% increase over the last decade.
While a slight increase from last year’s all-time high — at 46,388 — the achievement is even more remarkable given state and national trends where the majority of colleges and universities are reporting, projecting or anticipating significant enrollment declines.
Retaining students in the face of a pandemic was a massive effort and accomplishment, says Jack Miner, UC’s vice provost for enrollment management.
“Throughout the last few months, the national headlines have talked about how COVID was going to be so disruptive to fall enrollment,” says Miner. “Across the country, colleges are expecting significant drops in enrollment, so the fact that we are growing is really a phenomenal place to be.”
Some schools, he says, are seeing as many as 40% of expected first-year students who are taking a gap year, yet UC is on track to equal its first-year class size from last fall.
Summer set the stage, and now, more students are transferring to UC, which already draws heavily from the Cincinnati area.
“We are seeing a lot of students who are coming to UC who may have been attending another school and decided to stay in the Cincinnati area,” says Miner. “COVID has allowed people to reflect on the importance of staying close to home and staying near to their families.”
Miner says that throughout the pandemic UC has held tightly to the principles behind the “Bearcat Promise,” a significant element of UC’s Next Lives Here strategic direction in which the university ensures students will graduate on time with not only a degree but also a defined career path.
University leaders, faculty and staff have spent months developing its return-to-campus plan, preparing the physical spaces to host students safely and making significant changes in order to protect the health of the campus community. “We are taking preventive measures to make sure that students, faculty and staff are safe and taken care of,” says Vice Provost Christopher Lewis, who is also a family physician. “We certainly want to make sure that our students are learning and excelling and creating knowledge. And all of those things are important, but nothing is more important at the University of Cincinnati than the health, safety and well-being of our Bearcat community.”