The student bodies at Utah’s public research universities shrunk slightly in 2019, but those losses were offset by growth at their sister campuses around the state, according to new numbers released Wednesday by the Utah System of Higher Education.

Total enrollment at the University of Utah dipped by 171 students in 2019, while enrollment at Utah State University fell by 122 students, bringing the headcounts at those campuses to 32,852 and 27,810, respectively.

In a prepared statement, U. Senior Associate Vice President Steve Robinson emphasized quality over quantity, noting that the graduation rate at Utah’s flagship school has trended upward and that its incoming freshman class is its most academically prepared based on average GPA and ACT scores.

The state’s data also show the University of Utah’s full-time enrollment growing by the equivalent of 63 students this year, a critical metric for state funding and performance-related measurements.

(Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune)
(Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune)

“We are thrilled that over 4,200 freshmen from across Utah, the nation and the globe decided to enroll at the U.,” Robinson said. “These students represent the most academically prepared group of students to begin classes at the flagship university of our state. We know that the class of 2023 will succeed and do great things while on campus and beyond.”

USU President Noelle Cockett similarly emphasized retention and graduation rates in a prepared statement that described the Logan campus as working to help students complete their academic goals efficiently and effectively.

“Attending college isn’t the only goal,” she said, "graduating and embarking on a successful career is the principal goal.

Statewide, enrollment in Utah’s higher education system grew by more than 5,400 students, bringing the overall headcount to 189,351 students for the fall of 2019.

That growth was driven by significant gains at Orem’s Utah Valley University (+1,797 students), St. George’s Dixie State University (+1,243 students), Cedar City’s Southern Utah University (+1,028 students) and Ogden’s Weber State University (+1,397 students).

Enrollment at Snow College, in Ephraim, shrunk by 131 students and the student body at Salt Lake Community College increased by 361 students.

“We are excited to have the largest student body in Dixie State’s history and the highest percentage growth among public universities in Utah,” Dixie President Richard Williams said in a statement. “As part of this consistent growth, we will also continue expanding our academic programs and facilities to give every DSU student a high-quality, affordable education to help them become career-ready.”

At Utah Valley University, which years ago surpassed the University of Utah as the state’s largest campus, second-year President Astrid Tuminez noted that the Orem school’s enrollment includes many non-traditional students, including high schoolers and adults enrolled in online and evening courses.

“We believe everyone deserves access to a meaningful postsecondary education, and our growth is reflective of that," she said. “We are committed to continuously improving the student experience by providing education that is accessible, affordable, and relevant."