CU Denver campus

Takeaways From the Feb. 22 Enrollment Info Session

Retention in spring semester is strong; applications for fall are up

March 5, 2024

At CU Denver, we know how transformative a higher education degree can be for our students. Which is why more than 280 community members, including faculty, staff, and campus leaders, gathered on Feb. 22 to learn more about enrollment trends (nationally, internationally, and at our university), tools for tracking data, ways to support student retention, and a preview of what’s to come for the fall 2024 semester.  

The information session was a collaborative effort that brought together leaders from across the campus community, including in the areas of Strategic Enrollment and Student Success (SESS), academic planning and institutional effectiveness, and budget. The event was a mix of information sharing and open conversation.  

Katie Linder, Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Innovation and Strategy and Interim Vice Chancellor for Strategic Enrollment and Student Success, moderated the information session alongside a panel of CU Denver’s experts within student-related areas. In her opening remarks, Linder explained the purpose of the information session: to provide greater transparency and keep the campus community well-informed of enrollment strategy, operations, and data. 

“Our goal is to [host this type of information session] after census in the spring, and then after census again in the fall, so we’ll have enrollment presentations a couple times a year to bring the community together around our current enrollment picture, trends, and any actions that we’re taking that are relevant for the community to know,” Linder said. 

Overwhelmingly, it was clear throughout the information session that the panelists want to help the university attract and retain students, offer more opportunities for collaboration and data sharing, and make significant progress in the enrollment space. In short, our students—and their experiences—were in focus. 

Below are some key takeaways from the information session. Those interested in CU Denver’s enrollment are encouraged to watch the full recording of the session, which includes a Q&A. 

Enrollment: Where We Are at and Where We Are Going 

This first enrollment information session primarily focused on the results of the spring semester, although the campus’ recruitment and enrollment teams are already working to secure applications and confirming enrollments for fall 2024 term, when we secure our largest enrollment classes. Associate Vice Chancellor for Enrollment Management Pam Toney recognized members of the campus community for their contributions to the 13,031 students that CU Denver serves. “It takes everybody in this room, online, and those who could not join us today to be able to serve that many students,” Toney said.  

The spring semester census was conducted on Jan. 31, 2024, and the newly released data gives us crucial point-in-time data of student enrollment that we can use to inform our work. For the spring 2024 semester, CU Denver saw growth with an increase in international first-time, first-year students and a stabilization in first-time, first-year students. There was a slight dip in the transfer population, which is due to the smaller number of community college students in our region and a decline in students transferring from other four-year institutions. Another factor is a smaller international graduate population, which is likely due to campus’ shift to external credential evaluations. The campus is addressing both of these issues by sending more recruiters to community colleges and bringing credential evaluations for international graduate applicants back in-house as of Feb. 1, 2024. 

For our current population, we saw that more students are coming back to the university to work towards finishing their degrees. Notably, Toney emphasized the importance of retention and pointed out that the university retained 72% of first-time, first-year students from fall 2022 to fall 2023, which is an increase of more than 2% from the prior year.  

For the fall 2024 semester, panelists will continue to gather data as the year progresses, and that data will be added to the public dashboards twice a week. Associate Vice Chancellor for Budget Jen St. Peter noted that application numbers “are looking very healthy.” 

Efforts Underway to Recruit and Retain Students  

In addition to reviewing the data, panelists explained why tracking these numbers is important and how it will help the university reach its enrollment targets. They offered examples of the work being done to attract, recruit, and retain students, which include:  

  • Increasing the number of visits to high school and community colleges; 
  • Hosting a workshop for graduate programs to begin work on or finetune their graduate recruitment and yield plans; 
  • Prioritizing applications from countries that have long wait times for visas to help expedite the process for these students; 
  • Improving communication to provide a more seamless registration process; and  
  • Building out the financial aid and scholarships team, which has already grown from five to 12 people since July and is expected to be fully staffed at 15 people this spring.  

Next Steps 

Enrollment is a collective effort, which was clear during the Q&A portion of the information session, when several participants thanked the panelists for covering the topic in a public setting and recognized the efforts underway to make improvements.  

The topic is crucial for the long- and short-term health of the university, and panelists provided clarity and optimism. Many people stayed after the event to talk to the team members and to share their gratitude and discuss follow-up questions. 

Dates and times for future engagement opportunities will be posted on the Strategic Enrollment and Budget Initiative website.  

Linder hoped the event encouraged people to feel engaged and hopeful about next steps. “We’re so excited to have so much interest in this conversation on enrollment,” Linder said to the participants. She later added, “We are hoping that you walk away today with a bit of a sense of how you might be able to contribute to the fall enrollment push and our enrollment future as we head forward.”