Northwest’s official census showed an increase in enrollment for the fourth consecutive year, with an 8% increase to 7,870 students, and a jump in international, graduate, online and dual-credit enrollment.
Though many groups of students experienced an increase in enrollment, freshman enrollment saw a decrease. Last fall, Northwest had 1,221 first-time freshmen, but a year later saw 257 less students, bringing the number down to 964 first-time freshmen.
Despite enrollment being down, there was a 76% retention rate from last year’s freshman to their second year of school, showing the second-highest retention rate in University history.
Of the headcount, the highest jump in enrollment numbers was from international students, with a 59% increase.
International Involvement Center Director Phil Hull said the rise in numbers compared to last year came from the limited ability for international travel, and now some of those restrictions are being lifted.
“After about a year and a half with very little international student mobility due to COVID-19, we found students finally able to leave their home countries and come to the United States,” Hull said. “For the better part of a year, embassy and consular offices were closed, disallowing students from making visa appointments and, therefore, obtaining student visas. Flights were limited and borders were closed.”
There are 702 international students, comprising 9% of the student population and representing 38 countries, with students mainly from India, Nepal, Nigeria and Brazil.
Hull said Northwest also welcomed eight exchange students, six of whom are here for the fall semester, and the other two are here for the full year.
Due to the pandemic, many study-abroad partner universities either canceled their programs or limited them to virtual settings. With the slight lift of travel and visa restrictions, those universities are now bringing back study-abroad programs to students.
“After no study-abroad mobility since spring 2020, we’re seeing programs open their doors, and the Study Abroad Office is looking forward to sending Northwest students abroad again this spring,” Hull said.
The next group of students to see an increase in enrollment was graduate students, with an increase of 44%.
Associate Provost of Graduate and Professional Studies Gregory Haddock said this increase was slightly over what the enrollment team had projected.
There was an anticipated growth of around 41%, Haddock said, so the growth in enrollment was not much more than they expected. However, in comparison to previous years, it is 10% more than what they have seen.
“The previous three years had grown a little less than 30% per year, so tracking ahead of that performance for the past 12 months has helped the institution’s overall headcount,” Haddock said. “The strategy to bolster graduate enrollment with online programs began in 2016-2017 when just under 15% of the graduate population were in online programs.
He said the programming in the graduate school enrolls around a third of the overall students on campus and two-thirds of Northwest online students. This year, online student enrollment increased by 19%.
Northwest also saw a 16% increase in dual-credit students, along with more transfer students. Compared to last year, there was a 4% increase, and Northwest welcomed 302 transfer students for the fall semester.