KU welcomes largest freshman class in history, grows enrollment to highest level since 2010
The University of Kansas has its largest freshman class in history and its highest overall enrollment in 13 years, according to annual data released today.
The record-breaking freshman class includes 5,259 new Jayhawks – a jump of 18% from last year – surpassing the 2008 class as the largest in KU history.
Beyond the freshman class, KU’s overall enrollment has grown 6.2% to 29,355, the highest mark since 2010. This increase includes a 6.7% increase at the Lawrence and Edwards campuses (which are counted together) and a 3.2% increase at KU Medical Center.
“We are pleased to welcome this historic freshman class and to have grown enrollment to the highest level in years,” said Chancellor Douglas A. Girod. “These numbers demonstrate that talented students from across the state and nation see the benefit of attending a top research institution like KU to prepare for their lives and careers. Additionally, these numbers speak to the hard work our faculty and staff do to recruit talented students and then support them so they can succeed here and earn their degrees.”
Size, talent and diversity
In addition to its historic size, this year’s freshman class is talented and diverse. The class boasts an average high school GPA of 3.65 — just .01 off the all-time mark set in 2021 and 2022. Minority freshman headcount is up 14.8% from last year and is now the highest on record.
Moreover, these first-year Jayhawks are entering fields that benefit the Kansas economy. This year, all-time high numbers of freshmen are enrolled in the university’s School of Business, School of Education & Human Sciences, School of Engineering and School of Architecture & Design.
“It’s one thing to grow in size,” Girod said, “but we are especially proud to have grown with talented, diverse students who are poised to address Kansas’ workforce needs in high-impact fields. Kansas employers look to KU as an engine of economic growth, and these freshmen will help us fulfill that role.”
KU leaders attribute the historic class to the university’s academic reputation and course offerings, recruitment strategies, nationwide network of donors and alumni, athletics profile and financial support from Kansas lawmakers. Additionally, unique factors during the past year benefited recruitment, including the return of KU football to national prominence, the development of the Jayhawk Welcome Center as a best-in-class facility to host prospective students and the infusion of $21 million in need-based student financial aid for public universities from Gov. Laura Kelly and the Kansas Legislature.
Retention and graduation rates
Today’s data also include strong retention and graduation rates. This year, KU retained 85.1% of last year’s freshmen — the highest rate since 2019. Additionally, this year’s four-, five- and six-year graduation rates are all record-highs.
“New student recruitment often grabs the headlines, but equally important to our mission and our overall enrollment is ensuring that we support these students once they’re here so they can earn their degrees,” Girod said. “That’s why we must remain committed to improving the student experience through enhancements to teaching, curriculum development, advising, health care, financial aid and other areas of importance to students.”
- The freshman class saw growth in both in-state and out-of-state student headcount. Compared to last year, this year’s class is up 13.8% in in-state freshmen and 24% in out-of-state freshmen.
- Minority students comprise 25.7% of the KU population, which is an increase of 9.4% and the highest percentage on record.
- There are an all-time high 1,924 veterans, active duty and military-connected students for fall 2023, up from 1,504 from last year.
- The School of Professional Studies at the Edwards Campus experienced a 13% increase in student credit hours compared to last fall. Its programs supported by the Johnson County Education Research Triangle were up 7.9%. Growth is seen in both long-standing and new workforce-oriented programs.
Girod said KU must continue working to overcome challenges facing higher education.
“This is a banner year for KU, and it’s important to take a moment to celebrate and be proud of the work we’ve done,” he said. “That said, we must continue our efforts to recruit and retain top students and create a university they want to attend. The reality is, higher education is facing some strong headwinds, and enrollments nationally are expected to drop in the coming years. That’s why we must continue to seek ways to improve our university through our strategic priorities, which align with the Kansas Board of Regents’ strategic plan, the needs of Kansas businesses and communities, and our broader aspirations as one of the nation’s leading research institutions.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE: After using headcount as the unit of measure for many years, the Board of Regents in 2018 transitioned to a full-time equivalency metric. KU continues to use the headcount metric for the convenience of media, policymakers and others who are tracking KU’s year-over-year enrollment progress and want to make an apples-to-apples comparison with previous years’ data.)