Exterior photo of Old Main with students walking on the sidewalk

Penn State's enrollment remains strong in 2023

University-wide enrollment totals 87,903

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State welcomed 16,239 first-year undergraduate students in fall 2023, and overall enrollment remains steady across the institution, according to the University’s annual enrollment snapshot released today (Nov. 2). For a fifth consecutive year, Penn State saw a rise in residential underrepresented student enrollment, with incoming first-time and transfer undergraduate students from underrepresented groups increasing by 409 students, or 3.9%, since last fall.  

Overall, University-wide enrollment for fall 2023 remained stable at 87,903 students, down 0.2% (213 students in total) from fall 2022. Penn State educates more than 50,000 Pennsylvania residents annually as part of its commitment to the commonwealth and its citizens.  

“Penn State continues to be a destination for Pennsylvanians and for students from around the world,” said Justin Schwartz, executive vice president and provost. “Our status as one of the world’s top public research universities, our focus on student success and economic growth, an expansive reach of educational offerings through the Commonwealth Campuses and World Campus, the outstanding quality of our faculty, and the power of the Penn State alumni network continue to draw the best and brightest students to the University.”  

Compared to fall 2022, the fall 2023 enrollment data also shows: 

  • An overall enrollment increase of 0.7% (334 students) in residential instruction at University Park, to 48,535. 

  • A slight decrease (however, lowest year-over-year enrollment percentage decrease at the Commonwealth Campuses in the last five years) in overall enrollment (0.8%, or 231 students) across all 20 Commonwealth Campus locations combined. 

  • A slight decline (3.0%, or 415 students) in overall Penn State World Campus enrollments, in part due to fewer residential students opting for a temporary shift to remote learning than during the pandemic. The number of first-time graduate and undergraduate students in World Campus increased by 18% (196 students) and 4.5% (60 students), respectively.  

  • Following several years of fluctuations driven by the pandemic, overall international student enrollment numbers have nearly returned to pre-pandemic levels. International graduate student enrollment across the institution grew by 4.1% (144 students) since fall 2022, mitigating a slight decline (2.5%, or 252 students) in overall international student enrollment. 

More information on these trends and other enrollment figures can be found below and on the Penn State Data Digest website. 

The University remains focused on growing its enrollment. To help foster enrollment growth, Matt Melvin, vice president for enrollment management, said in a June leadership update that the University is moving to a more coordinated and integrated approach to serving and retaining students, emphasizing a data-centric, research-based approach to its enrollment management and student recruitment efforts. 

“Among the University’s key enrollment efforts is the opportunity to grow student numbers beyond attracting and retaining traditional-aged college students,” said Melvin, who leads the Office of Enrollment Management that was established in August 2022. “This includes international students, adult learners, community college transfers and individuals who may have started college but didn’t finish their degree.”  

Underrepresented student enrollment up for fifth straight year 

The percentage of students from underrepresented backgrounds has seen a steady uptick in the last five years. Students from underrepresented backgrounds — those who self-identify as Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, American Indian/Native Alaskan, or Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander at enrollment — comprise 15.3% of the University-wide student body in fall 2023, compared to 14.7% in fall 2022. Across the institution, 18.1% of the 2023 cohort of first-time undergraduate students are from underrepresented backgrounds, compared to 17.6% of the 2022 cohort.

According to Marcus Whitehurst, vice provost for educational equity, this continued growth can be attributed to a number of initiatives, including a more diverse applicant pool through the University’s participation in the student admissions common application; strategic use of recruitment centers in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh to create broader outreach to diverse communities within the commonwealth; and greater accessibility via Penn State’s flexible Commonwealth Campus and World Campus structure. 

“The five-year trend in underrepresented student enrollment growth is a result of Penn State’s ongoing commitment to building a diverse student base,” said Whitehurst. “Led by President Bendapudi’s goal to foster diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB), our dedication to providing access to a quality education to students from all backgrounds is steadfast, and we are pleased to see this important and positive enrollment trend continue.”  

A newly created DEIB dashboard debuted in February to provide University-wide metrics for monitoring students, faculty and staff with a focus on historically underrepresented or marginalized groups.  

Efforts help stem declines at Commonwealth Campuses  

The Commonwealth Campuses saw a modest decrease of 0.8% (231 students) for a total enrollment of 28,558 in fall 2023, compared to the previous year. This reflects positive movement against a trend of somewhat steeper declines at the University’s Commonwealth Campuses in recent years. Enrollment of first-time and transfer students grew by 1.2% (102 students) at the Commonwealth Campuses.  

Margo DelliCarpini, vice president for Commonwealth Campuses and executive chancellor, said the progress can be attributed to a number of factors, including increasing access via admission pathways and leveraging faculty expertise from one campus to another via the Commonwealth Campus Digital Learning Cooperative, an administrative system that assists campuses and colleges in the sharing of online, hybrid and video courses across Penn State campuses. 

“The Commonwealth Campuses bring Penn State to every corner of Pennsylvania. They are the cultural and intellectual hubs of their communities, provide innovative partnerships, contribute more than $1.2 billion annually to the state’s economy and extend the University’s educational and experiential opportunities to students across the commonwealth,” DelliCarpini said. “The fact that nearly half of all first-year undergraduate students begin their Penn State educational experience at a Commonwealth Campus, and that 80% of Commonwealth Campus students are Pennsylvania residents, highlights the integral role our campuses play in advancing Penn State’s mission on behalf of the citizens of Pennsylvania.” 

International graduate numbers continue to grow post-pandemic; University performs well in key international rankings 

After a nearly 7% increase in the University’s overall international student population from fall 2021 to fall 2022, enrollment is down slightly this fall, by 2.5% (252 students). Last year’s numbers directly reflected a rebound after declines experienced during the height of COVID-19. This fall, international student enrollment trends have returned to pre-pandemic levels. 

Across all campuses, enrollment of international students in graduate programs has increased by 4.2% (126 students) at University Park and 9.0% (20 students) at the Commonwealth Campuses. Across the institution, 46.5% of all residential graduate students are international students. At University Park, international students comprise 50% of residential graduate students.  

“Penn State continues to demonstrate its strength as a premiere destination for over 9,600 international students from more than 140 countries around the world,” said Roger Brindley, vice provost for Penn State Global. “Our performance in key international university rankings — including No. 83 in the world in the 2024 QS World University Rankings and No. 20 among U.S. public universities in the 2024 Times Higher Education World University Rankings — is a testament to the University’s well-earned global academic reputation.” 

World Campus overall numbers down slightly, incoming student enrollment increasing 

Overall enrollment in Penn State World Campus dipped 3% (415 students) from fall 2022, as trends continue to adjust following the COVID-19 pandemic. Graduate and undergraduate incoming World Campus students (first-time and transfer) increased from fall 2022 to fall 2023 by 18% (196 students) and 4.5% (60 students), respectively. 
Fall 2023 figures can be seen on the Penn State Data Digest website