New Study Shows Class of 2026 Grows Third Year in a Row


Adam Fondren

The Block U on the University of Utah Campus, Salt Lake City, Utah on July 12, 2017. (Photo by Adam Fondren | Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Allison Stuart, News Writer


For the third year in a row, the University of Utah has surpassed previous years’ enrollment numbers, contrary to a nationwide trend of decreasing college enrollment and in spite of the continued COVID-19 pandemic. This includes the numbers for first-time freshmen and overall student enrollment.

A new data release shows where the numbers have grown, particularly among students of color and women. In the especially diverse freshman class of 2026, there are, “The largest number of incoming freshmen of color at 1,655 students, [as well as] the highest number of female-identifying freshmen at 2,779 students,” stated the study.

Steve Robinson, assistant director of admissions at the U, said the growth the U experienced was double what he first saw at the beginning of the fall 2022 semester. “As of last week, we’re up about one and a half percent over the same time last year,” he said. 

The report showed a 3% increase in freshman enrollment, along with growth in undergraduate, graduate and overall enrollment.

“The freshmen increase of 3.0 percent contributed to an overall 2.0 percent growth totaling 26,355 undergraduate students. Combined with 8,379 graduate students, overall enrollment increased 0.8 percent to 34,734 students,” the study explained .

Robinson said, “This is the largest number of undergraduates we’ve ever had at the university.”

And while there have been many enrollment records broken over the last three years, U President Taylor Randall has goals to continue to surpass enrollment numbers.

According to Robinson, “The president has articulated a vision that we will be at 40,000 students within the next five years to get there, you know, we’re going to have to continue growing every year. It’s a bit of a tightrope, but it’s very possible to do it.” 

Robinson said there are lots of changes that need to be made besides the obvious in housing. For example, if there are many more students, then there need to be more instructors hired to teach more sections of the classes, more dining spaces need to be added and more parking spaces to accommodate the growing population, among other things.

Zach Thompson, a freshman at the U studying finance, said he was excited about new students to be able to attend college, such as minorities and women, but later Thompson said he was “concerned” about the number of students the university is accepting.

According to Thompson, college connections have been different than he expected. “It’s weird,” he said. “It’s like I know even fewer people than I did in high school, even though it’s an even bigger class, I know even less people.”

He has experienced firsthand the housing shortage at the U that many students face.

“So technically our room is a triple but it’s actually just a double that they threw another bed in because again, they’re too cheap to build more housing, so they just use the housing that they have and cram more people into it. Like rats in a cage.”

Thompson’s third roommate actually never showed, but he still feels extremely cramped in the space. “We are tall humans, and we have this tiny tiny space, where we have to tiptoe around.”

Even though there are efforts being made to create more spaces and housing for students, Thompson is concerned it won’t be enough. 

Looking to the future, Robinson says he can already see promising figures in the incoming applications for the class of 2027, with a 25% increase in applications in this time of year already. 


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