Something is going on at the University of Wisconsin-Superior and it runs contrary to local and national trends.  While the majority of colleges and universities across the nation - including the three "other" big schools in the Twin Ports - have seen enrollment numbers drop over the last year, enrollment at UWS is up from 2020.

Additionally, that positive growth in enrollment for UWS is part of a general pattern for the university of steady enrollment numbers, even as local trends have seen a general trend downwards for the remaining schools (University of Minnesota-Duluth, Saint Scholastica, and Lake Superior College).

According to data shared by the Superior Telegram, UWS is on track to have positive enrollment growth for 2021:

"By more than one measure, the University of Wisconsin-Superior, the smallest of the four schools [locally], has proven to stand apart from regional and national trends.  The school's enrollment total increased by nearly 1% this year to about 2,580 students, just shy of where that number stood in 2019."

At the same time, UWS has "Managed to continue enrolling a student body that's made up of 45% first-generation students".

In contrast, UMD, St, Scholastica, and Lake Superior College each saw a slide in enrollment numbers over the last year.  For some of those institutions, that decrease is an overall general trend that started around five years ago. Here's a general breakdown of the four schools, with numbers from the last five years:

Nick Cooper - TSM Duluth

UWS

  • 2021: 2582
  • 2020: 2559
  • 2019: 2608
  • 2018: 2601
  • 2017: 2590
Nick Cooper - TSM Duluth

UMD

  • 2021: 9884
  • 2020: 10275
  • 2019: 10858
  • 2018: 11040
  • 2017: 11168
Nick Cooper - TSM Duluth

St. Scholastica

  • 2021: 3512
  • 2020: 3735
  • 2019: 3906
  • 2018: 4043
  • 2017: 4235
Nick Cooper - TSM Duluth

Lake Superior College

  • 2021: 2774
  • 2020: 3096
  • 2019: 3122
  • 2018: 3146
  • 2017: 3160

Whether enrollment is up or down at the four schools, one a variety of common factors is driving those numbers.  High demand for labor in the current job market and the trend towards employers paying higher-than-usual wages to attract employees has had a definite affect on college enrollment numbers. According to Lake Superior College spokesperson Daniel Fanning:

"Some of those students who just weren't quite sure if they wanted to do the online courses or not, or just weren't sure with some of the uncertainty, a lot of them are taking that gap year, which has turned into a couple gap years.  Some of them are working for $15-20 an hour because that's kind of the going wage right now."

Many of the students who do choose college are doing do part time; balancing work and school at the same time.  "At least 70% of the college's students attend part time, which is higher than usual".

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