University Park

Overall enrollment steady in 2012; online learning continues growth

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State’s total enrollment has remained steady from 2011 to 2012, according to an annual snapshot count taken at the end of the sixth week of fall semester classes. The University saw a slight increase in total enrollment to 96,562, up from last year’s final total of 96,519.

Notably, the number of students enrolled exclusively in online courses through Penn State’s World Campus rose by 1,670 to 11,984, an increase of more than 16 percent over 2011. This figure continues a recent trend of double-digit growth in World Campus enrollment at Penn State and reflects a wider national trend in the popularity of online learning.

Enrollment at University Park grew slightly, by 194 students to 44,679, continuing a trend of relative stability at the campus (in 2011, enrollment at University Park increased by 451 students, a change of less than 1 percent). The College of Medicine saw an increase of five students to 792; Dickinson School of Law observed a decline of 28 students to 601.

“Penn State’s enrollment numbers continue to reflect the University’s strength in attracting the best students, from Pennsylvania and around the world. The University continues to be among the most popular in the nation,” said Rob Pangborn, interim executive vice president and provost. “The numbers also reflect the demographic and economic realities faced by the Commonwealth. While we are experiencing a decline in the number of high school graduates in portions of the state, at the same time we are seeing higher demand for online programs as adult learners seek to advance their education and improve their economic outlook by returning to the classroom.”

Commonwealth campus student enrollment is 31,559, a 4.2 percent decline from 2011, or a decrease of 1,369 students across the 19 Commonwealth campuses. Contributing factors include falling numbers of high school graduates in Pennsylvania, especially in the west, a trend that has long been predicted by demographers and one that is expected to continue into the future. Also contributing are the decline of dual-enrolled high school students with the elimination of state funding for the initiative, and a continued, long-term downward trend in associate degree enrollments. Shifts in on-campus graduate enrollments to professional master's degrees offered through the World Campus also have had an impact.

“The landscape in higher education always is shifting, and we are constantly striving to ensure that our programs meet the needs of the communities we serve,” Pangborn said. “Maintaining the quality of our offerings is of the utmost importance. We also are focused on strong retention of our returning students, providing access to the tools they need to be successful after they arrive.”

Enrollment totals for this year reflect slightly more out-of-state enrollees, including international students, University-wide. Total international enrollments, undergraduate and graduate, increased by 982 students to 6,786, up 17 percent over last year.

University-wide, the number of U.S. students from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds rose by 890 to 17,468, an increase of 5.4 percent for the year.

Detailed enrollment information is available at the University’s Fact Book website at

Enrollment at Penn State, by campus, as of October 2012. Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

Last Updated October 23, 2012