The Lead

Despite decrease in system-wide enrollment, PASSHE officials see reason for optimism

By: - October 9, 2023 3:38 pm

Pa.’s state-owned universities. (Via PASSHE website)

After years of decline, enrollment at universities in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) is starting to see those numbers rebound, according to PASSHE officials. 

PASSHE reports that enrollment fell by 2.2% across the entire system from Fall 2022-23, but officials say this decline is “stabilizing” after years of dwindling enrollment. 

In the 2012-13 academic year, PASSHE enrollment for undergraduates system-wide totaled 100,567, data shows.  A decade later, the total enrollment for the 2022-23 academic year is 70,597, a 29.8% decrease.  

For the academic year beginning Fall 2023, enrollment of new first-time students increased by 3.4% and is up a combined 10% for Fall 2022 and Fall 2023, according to PASSHE.

Dr. Cynthia Shapira, chair of the PASSHE Board of Governors, which oversees 10 universities across the Commonwealth, called the news “very encouraging,” adding that it was a sign that the strategies adopted by PASSHE to bolster enrollment at state schools are working. 

Amid state budget impasse, PASSHE board approves tuition freeze for fifth consecutive year

“More freshmen and transfer students are choosing State System universities,” Shapira said. “The State System has frozen tuition and aligned academic programs to in-demand jobs, and two straight years of new-student enrollment growth shows that is what students want.”

PASSHE reports that seven universities in the state system have increased first-time undergraduate degree or certificate-seeking enrollment in Fall 2023:

  • East Stroudsburg, 21.1%
  • Cheyney, 15.2% 
  • Indiana, 15%
  • Commonwealth, 11.8%
  • Slippery Rock, 5.3%
  • West Chester, 2.7% 
  • Shippensburg, 1.6%

Additionally, the total new first-time undergraduate degree or certificate-seeking student enrollment in those seven universities increased by 9%.

The increase in new student enrollment has also set some new records at several PASSHE schools. 

For example, Slippery Rock University had its largest first-year class since 2019 and record enrollment of graduate students, West Chester University had its largest ever first-year class and had a 4% increase in out-of-state students, and Cheyney University, the first of the nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), had its largest total enrollment since 2017 this year. 

Pennsylvania Western University and Commonwealth University, both of which are the result of recent consolidation efforts, saw encouraging enrollment figures this year.

PennWest exceeded its first-year student enrollment goal by 1.1% and Commonwealth University’s new student enrollment is up 11.8%, according to PASSHE.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Cassie Miller
Cassie Miller

A native Pennsylvanian, Cassie Miller worked for various publications across the Midstate before joining the team at the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. In her previous roles, she has covered everything from local sports to the financial services industry.