The U Welcomes Largest and Most Diverse Freshman Class Yet


Jake Stranzl

University of Utah Campus in Salt Lake on Oct. 11, 2020. (Photo by Jake Stranzl | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Kyla Yetter


Despite enrollment for the 2020 school year occurring amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, this fall the University of Utah welcomed its largest and most diverse freshman class to date. 

Most schools have seen a dip in enrollment rates this year as students weigh whether going to school online is worth the cost of tuition. According to the New York Times, enrollment at American colleges and universities has dropped 16%. The University of Colorado experienced an 11.1% drop in enrollment rates compared to last fall.

Steve Robinson, the new senior associate vice president for enrollment management at the U, gave a couple of possible explanations for the rise in enrollment.

The first possible reason Robinson said is the quality of education at the U.

“I think it’s a reflection of either the academic power of our degrees. First and foremost, if you come to the University of Utah, you’re going to graduate, you’re going to have a degree that’s going to lead you to a great career or graduate or professional school, whatever your aspirations may be,” Robinson said. 

Sadie Edwards, a freshman this year, agreed with Robinson on this point. Edwards is originally from Arizona, and said she decided to come to the U because of the opportunities she felt were available. She also mentioned the help and resources the U has provided to her since moving on campus. 

“I don’t think a lot of schools have the resources that Utah does for students. And I think that’s really attractive to a lot of people. When I was moving into the dorms, my dorm room flooded and there were like 50 people ready to help me move all my stuff. And I was like, holy cow usually when you’re calling or working with other institutions, it takes like four days to get a hold of someone,” Edwards said. 

Robinson also described a new scholarship offered for the first time this year, the For Utah Scholarship. This is a full-tuition scholarship for Utah residents who had a high school GPA of 3.2 or above, completed the FAFSA and are Pell Grant recipients.

While Robinson does not attribute the increase entirely to this new scholarship, he does say there is “certainly a correlation.”

Finally, the rise in enrollment rates at the U could be due to the admissions office doing more active recruiting this year, both within the state and out of Utah, according to Robinson.

Robinson said the admissions office attended more high school recruiting events and information sessions in this past year in Utah than they had ever done previously.

In the past, the U has typically focused on recruiting from the Intermountain West and California. This year, however, the admissions office sent recruiters to more states than ever before. 

“We send recruiters into Texas on a regular basis and we have a record number of freshmen from Texas this year. We sent recruiters for the first time in about 10 years to Hawaii. And again, our numbers nearly doubled in terms of the freshmen from Hawaii,” Robinson said. 

Not only is the 2020 incoming freshman class the largest, but it is also the most diverse. In the University of Utah application, there is an optional question for students to select their race, based on the federal definitions of race. Using the data from the applications, the admissions office found that roughly 31% of the incoming domestic class are people of color. 

As a member of this class, Edwards had a positive reaction to hearing this news. 

“I like being in a place where it’s safe for all kinds of people,” Edwards said.

In terms of future enrollment rates, Robinson is both hopeful and realistic about the future. He knows the U must continue offering knowledge and opportunities for possible students to learn about what this school has to offer.

“We certainly want to continue to grow as much as we possibly can. We’re trying to ensure that we’ve got good strategies in place to help the U and to make sure that students know about us– that there’s viable financial aid scholarships. We’ve got to continually find ways to reach out so we can help the university grow its involvement,” Robinson said. 


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