MADISON, Wis.—Preliminary enrollment at University of Wisconsin System campuses decreased 1.9 percent in fall 2020 compared to the previous year, a drop in line with demographic shifts and less than national estimates.

Enrollment of underrepresented students of color increased by 2 percent on UW System campuses.

In total, 164,494 students are enrolled at UW System’s 13 universities for fall 2020, the preliminary data show. UW System campuses experienced an enrollment decrease of 6 percent among first-year students, far less than the estimated 16 percent drop nationally.

“Amid the pandemic, and with fewer high school graduates, we expected a slight dip in enrollment,” said UW System President Tommy Thompson. “I’m gratified by these enrollment figures, which show that our students want to be able to continue their education as much as possible.”

According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, enrollment across the U.S. dropped 3 percent for fall 2020 and 16 percent among first-year students.

The UW System enrollment figures reported today represent the count on the 10th day of classes, the standard reporting figure.

Overall, the data shows 3,194 fewer students in the UW System in fall 2020 compared to fall 2019. About one-third is attributable to the two-year branch campuses.

“The pandemic has changed the way we operate, but we know our students value and demand the kind of education our universities can deliver,” said Regent President Andrew S. Petersen. “President Thompson, our chancellors, and all of our faculty and staff are doing all they can to provide that education in as safe an environment as possible.”

The data also show:

  • Preliminary overall enrollment at three campuses increased.
  • Graduate student enrollment increased 1.9 percent, or 461 students.
  • New freshman enrollment fell by 1,684 students.
  • Enrollment of underrepresented students of color increased by 438.
  • Enrollment at two-year branch campuses fell by 989 students.
  • Five universities enrolled more resident students than the previous year.

Find the 2020 preliminary enrollment figures here.


The University of Wisconsin System serves approximately 165,000 students. Awarding nearly 37,000 degrees annually, the UW System is Wisconsin’s talent pipeline, putting graduates in position to increase their earning power, contribute to their communities, and make Wisconsin a better place to live. Nearly 90 percent of in-state UW System graduates stay in Wisconsin five years after earning a degree. The UW System provides a 23:1 return on state investment. UW System institutions also contribute to the richness of Wisconsin’s culture and economy with groundbreaking research, new companies and patents, and boundless creative intellectual energy.


Media Contact

Mark Pitsch UW System (608) 265-3419