UW enrollment grows

CASPER — The University of Wyoming is set to have its second-largest freshman class arrive on campus later this month, a crop of new students topped only by last year’s record-setting group. 

The university is expecting about 1,800 freshman this year, UW’s point person for enrollment said Monday. 

That’s slightly down 1,859 last year but is still on pace to meet the university’s enrollment goal for 2019. In all, the school is expecting an enrollment of more than 12,400 kids — about 1,100 short of the goal UW set for itself to hit by 2022. 

“I’m thrilled about the progress that we’re making,” said Kyle Moore, the university’s vice provost for enrollment. “We’re still on a trajectory to meet 2022 enrollment targets.” 

He said that though enrollment for this fall is down somewhat from last year, that says more about the strong success of 2018 than any stumble in 2019. He likened it to a baseball player hitting a grand slam. 

“The very next better hits a home run,” he said. “The roar of the crowd isn’t quite as loud on the home run as it was the swing before.” 

The growth is the third straight year of strong freshman classes at UW. In 2017, the school was just a student or two away from setting a university record. The next year, they smashed it and now have a runner-up to that newly set record. 

The success is all the more surprising given the enrollment mess that the university found itself in heading into the 2016-17 school year.

Former UW President Laurie Nichols previously told the Star-Tribune that the school was looking at an enrollment drop of 600-some students. By the time fall 2016 came around, the free fall had lessened into a trip-and-tumble: Nichols has said the enrollment ended up being down by 200 or so students. 

There are likely a number of factors that have led to the rapid reversal of the school’s enrollment fortunes, but several administrators have pointed to the strategic plan — championed by Nichols and approved by the board two summers ago — as the cornerstone. 

From that document, the university has adopted a number of changes, unrolled new programs and announced new strategies — including the somewhat controversial but broadly successful “The World Needs More Cowboys” campaign. Moore previously credited some of that campaign, which will be relaunched this year with renewed emphasis within the state’s borders, with enrollment growth heading into this year. 

The university is also planning a thus far vague plan to begin using student ambassadors across Wyoming to help recruitment. The school’s board of trustees overhauled need-based financial aid last month, placing a heavier emphasis on in-state students rather than prospective attendees from nearby states. 

“What it was was a conscious effort to say, ‘OK, well, that’s something that is certainly within our area of responsibility as an institution to fulfill our access mission and our commitment to serving the students of the state of Wyoming,’” Moore said. “We’ve found an avenue to move some financial support to target that population of students with a demonstrated financial need. We have always wanted those students to enroll at the University of Wyoming.”