By GVC Staff
Did you know that college enrollment in America has been decreasing since 2011? This worrying fact could mean that colleges will struggle to deliver the same level of education to students. After all, admissions provide the income that pays for professors, buildings, facilities and more. However, some colleges stand in contrast to this national trend. These colleges have seen large increases in attendance due to improved peer reputation, teaching quality and graduate opportunities. But which colleges are currently enjoying these influxes? This list will provide you with the answers.
Attending a college with a rapidly increasing student population has numerous advantages. As well as the cash injection, the college receives more thinkers, increases its alumni network and has that many more opportunities to showcase its excellence.
But it’s about much more than just numbers. A list that merely shows the largest increases in student populations/applications neglects to reveal key information about the college. You need to know that these rapidly expanding colleges are actually meeting the increased demands of their expanding student populations. Therefore, this list is about showcasing quality as much as quantity. Yes, a college needs an increase in student population to make this list. But it also needs to provide evidence that it’s providing for its attendees.
This is the first article of its kind. It reveals colleges that are booming both in population and achievement. Any college listed below is a fine choice for someone who is looking to attend an institution that reflects this trend. However, it’s also entirely possible that none of the colleges below appeal to you. Even if that is the case, then this article can still be highly useful. It will show you what to look out for in a healthy growing college. These pointers should allow you to make your college choice with greater ease.
Our rankings incorporate government data, respected publications’ lists, and our own exhaustive research. Of the lists that we’ve consulted, each gives an important piece of information that has formed our overall rankings. For instance, the government’s list of the largest colleges by enrollment provides a starting point, but USA Today shows average annual costs, application percentage increases and more.
To make our final ranking, a college needs to showcase an increase in students over the past several years or indicate that they will increase numbers soon. Colleges with consistent increases and large increases are both considered. Additionally, colleges that are undertaking innovative enrollment practices, such as effective online programming, have also been included.
Our rankings are below:
30. Claflin University
USA Today states that Claflin University saw the tenth largest increase in applications of any American university over the last five years, at 123%. However, the college has only increased its student population slightly over this time. From 2015 to 2017, total enrollment increased from 1,866 to 1,978 individuals. But in 2018, this number has increased to 2,100, indicating that Claflin will expand for years to come. Despite these increases, the student to faculty ratio is still 13 to one, meaning that every student has the opportunity to gain close and beneficial education from their professors.
29. Southern Utah University
According to USA Today, Southern Utah University saw a 151% increase in applications from 2013 to 2017. This is in line with Utah’s statewide increase in college attendance, which at 22% made it the third largest in America from 2006 to 2016, states CollegeBoard. Southern Utah University has certainly been able to handle this increase effectively. In 2017, its enrollment surpassed 10,000 students for the first time. And “Over ten years, SUU grew the number of graduates by a whopping 61%.”
28. Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi
The state of Texas is seeing the largest increase in students in America, at 25% according to CollegeBoard. Even the smaller colleges, such as Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi, have been able to accommodate a large influx. In the fall of 2000, the college had a total of 6,823 students. But in the fall of 2015, this number had increased to 11,661. The number has continued to rise slightly in recent years and currently stands at 12,202 students. Additionally, Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi has what US News recognizes to be the best online graduate nursing program in America.
27. Tarleton State University
Like many Texas colleges, Tarleton State University has experienced a significant increase in admissions over the 21st century. From 2000 to 2015, enrollment expanded 64% from 7,545 to 12,333. Since 2015, this figure has continued to rise, with current enrollment standing at 13,011. Even with its increases in admissions, Tarleton is still an incredibly in-demand college. USA Today states that over the last five years, applications to attend have grown by 131%. However, perhaps the best statistics for Tarleton State University are that the college, “ranks in the top 25% for 6-year graduation rate and in the bottom 25% for tuition and related costs.”
26. University of Memphis, Tennessee
USA Today reports that University of Memphis, Tennessee saw the second largest increase among American colleges in the number of applications over the last five years, at 219%. However, research into the college’s enrollment statistics reveals that from 2015 to 2017, the college increased its number of enrolled students from 20,585 to 21,521. One result of this steady rise in admissions is that University of Memphis, Tennessee has been able to freeze tuition increases in 2018. And the college recently claimed that it will cut the cost of its out of state tuition for 2019.
25. University of California, Santa Barbara
The top five colleges that receive the most applicants are all in the University of California system. University of California, Santa Barbara comes in at fifth, with 77,098 undergraduate applications in 2016. This undergraduate application rate increased in 2017, to 81,832. The total enrollment (including graduate students) between the two years increased from 24,346 to 25,057. This is a rise consistent with previous years. The newly admitted students join a long list of successful people who studied at the University of California, Santa Barbara. These include astronaut Leroy Chiao, TV journalist Harris Faulkner, Olympic athlete Barbara Nwaba and many more.
24. Georgia Institute of Technology
CollegeBoard reveals that Georgia has seen one of the largest increases in student numbers of any American state. From 2006 to 2016, enrollments increased by 21%, the fourth most in America. Georgia Institute of Technology is outperforming its statewide admission rate. In 2007, the college’s total enrollment stood at 17,935, but in 2017, this had increased to 26,839. This is an increase of 50%. Georgia Institute of Technology’s location in Atlanta, the capital of the South, and its 97% second-year retention rate are just a few of the reasons why so many want to study at this incredible college.
23. University of California, Irvine
USA Today reveals that from 2016 to 2017, University of California, Irvine received over 77,816 applications. This was a 70% increase over a five year period. But since this data was collated, the applications have seen an even larger increase. The college reveals that for fall 2018, it received over 116,000 applications. The number of admitted students has also continued to grow. State University.com reveals that from 2014 to 2015, enrollment expanded by 5.2% to 28,895. However, the college’s total current enrollment stands at 35,958, a 24% increase on the 2015 figure.
22. Ivy Tech Community College
StateUniversity.com notes that Ivy Tech Community College had the second most students enrolled in America in 2015, at 98,778. This made it the largest non-online-only college in America. In fact, the college’s online enrollment dropped 20% to 34,103. While its overall enrollment percentage has also dropped since this data was released, the college makes this list, as it intends to increase its enrollment to almost 120,000 students by 2023. The college is restructuring the way that it operates and is removing 1 million square feet of facilities while taking on more students.
21. Salt Lake Community College
At 22%, Utah saw the third largest percentage increase in student enrollments from 2006 to 2016, according to CollegeBoard. Salt Lake Community College is the perfect example of this and shows that this number continues to increase. In 2015, the college grew 6.7% from 29,997 students to over 32,003 students, according to StateUniversity.com. However, the current enrollment is now over 60,000, making it the state’s largest college. Impressively, graduates of Salt Lake Community College enjoy an average return on investment of 21%.
20. Capella University
Capella University’s enrollment dropped by 3.9% from 2014 to 2015, according to Inside Higher Ed. Its total enrollment figure at this time was 34,365. However, by 2017, the college had more than made for this one year dip and had enrolled 38,802 individuals. Like many of the rapidly growing colleges in America, Capella University is an online institution that allows students to learn to a schedule that suits them. The college’s extremely flexible approach to education may not be to everyone’s taste, but the college does boast many successes. For instance, 90% of graduates are satisfied with their experience. And 83% of alumni employers, “are satisfied with the academic preparation of Capella graduates.”
19. University of California, San Diego
US News reveals that the University of California, San Diego is the college with the second highest number of applicants in America. In 2016, it received over 84,000 applications. With such a large number of potential students to accept, the college can easily control its growth. Statistics from the college itself show that from 2006 to 2016, the college’s enrollment increased 33% from 26,857 to 35,816 students. Recently published information shows that in 2017, it admitted a record 39,802 students. However, in 2018, its admissions decreased by 2%. The college did note that almost one-third of 2018’s new students were first-generation college attendees, however.
18. University of California, Berkeley
The current admission rate at the University of California, Berkeley is just 18%. This is because it receives the third most applicants of any college, as US News reveals, but only ever increases its enrollment by small amounts. Currently, 42,519 students are enrolled in the college. This is a slight increase in the 41,910 students in 2017. This enrollment figure stood at 40,173 in 2016 and 38,204 in 2015. The University of California, Berkeley’s selective yet expansive admissions process has seen amazing results. For instance, 31 alumni have won Nobel Prizes to date.
17. University of California, Los Angeles
US News reports that UCLA is the American college that receives the most overall applications in America. In 2016, it received 97,121 applications. And the number of applicants continues to increase, even in the face of falling national figures. The college reports that in 2017, it saw 113,000 overall applications. Despite these expanding application numbers, the college is measured in its admissions increases. For instance, in 2018, UCLA admitted 45,428 students, a little more than the 44,947 it admitted in 2017. However, the overall admissions rate has increased every year since 2011, indicating that it is committed to growth.
16. Rutgers University, New Brunswick
This college enjoyed an 18% increase in enrollment in 2015, according to StateUniversity.com. This saw its total number of students jump from 40,434 to 48,036. This is outpacing the 13% expansion in student enrollment from 2006 to 2016 in the college’s home state of New Jersey. In the years after this source research was taken, Rutgers University, New Brunswick’s student population has increased even more. It currently has 49,577 students overall. The influx of students in recent years can be attributed to two major achievements in 2013. Firstly, it restructured its health division into a new school. Secondly, it joined the Big Ten Academic Alliance, which allows, “top tier American universities that collaborate to leverage campus resources and generate unique opportunities for students and faculty.”
15. University of South Florida
When StateUniversity.com published its list of colleges with the largest attendance in 2015, University of South Florida had only experienced a slight enrollment increase of 0.8%. At the time, the total enrollment was 41,428. However, in the same time period, the college’s online enrollments increased by 30% to 20,993 of that total population. In 2018, the overall enrollment total increased to 50,775. One great thing about the University of South Florida is that it’s incredibly welcoming to a diverse range of students. Currently, 41% of students are a minority.
14. Kaplan University/Purdue University Global
Despite a fall in online enrollments in 2015, Kaplan University’s overall enrollment managed to increase. Online enrollments dropped by 2.4%, but total enrollments increased by 7.3%, according to Inside Higher Ed and StateUniversity.com. Even with this drop, Kaplan University enjoyed a strong reputation as a leader in online adult education. In fact, its popularity was such that the Indiana based Purdue University purchased the college in 2017. In 2018, it has integrated its online courses with Purdue’s strong reputation. The college is now an online-only institution and offers students the opportunity to try its services for three weeks before committing to a full degree.
13. Grand Canyon University
USA Today reveals that Grand Canyon University has had the largest five-year increase in applications of any American college. Its total applications from 2016 to 2017 stood at 34,096. 57% of these applicants were accepted. StateUniversity.com reveals that the college’s enrollment rate increased by 14% from 2014 to 2015. However, Inside Higher Ed reveals that the majority of these students studied online, with 54,543 digital learners overall. These students are well maintained, as the college is, “constantly refining our digital platforms to deliver GCU’s outstanding campus experience to virtual settings.” However, for students that do attend the physical college, there is strong evidence of impressive facilities. Grand Canyon University states that “Since 2009, we have invested millions into the university to improve the quality of academic offerings and student experiences.”
12. University of Florida
Since 2012, University of Florida’s enrollment has been increasing. However, in recent years, this increase has accelerated. For instance, in 2013, only nine more students enrolled than in 2012. But in 2016, an additional 2,335 students enrolled. Its most recent figures reveal that its 2017 enrollment was 55,862, the largest in the college’s history. Online enrollments have been key to this increase. Inside Higher Ed notes that in 2015, University of Florida saw a 24% increase in online study. This college is a great choice for people who are determined to graduate with little or no debt. Over half of the college’s students graduate debt free.
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10. University of Texas at Arlington
The University of Texas at Arlington has almost doubled its student population in the last three years. StateUniversity.com states that in 2015, 33,329 students were enrolled (which was only a 0.3% increase on the previous year.) But in 2018, the total enrollment is expected to exceed 60,000 people. Of these, 43,000 chose to study on campus, with the rest being online only. The Texas state representative, (who represents the college’s district) Chris Turner, states that “UTA is providing exactly what we need from our institutions of public higher education, by getting more students admitted and graduated, keeping college affordable, and maintaining the highest standards of excellence.”
9. Texas A&M University, College Station
Enrollment at Texas A&M University, College Station increased by 10% from 2014 to 2015, according to StateUniversity.com. Notably, many of these new students were not enrolled via online degrees. The college does not make Inside Higher Ed’s list of the top 50 largest online college enrollment increases in 2015. This means that a large proportion of these students are moving to and studying at the college. By fall 2018, the total enrollment of this college stood at 64,126. Impressively, 25% of students are first-generation.
8. University of Central Florida
CollegeBoard notes that from 2006 to 2016, Florida saw a 20% increase in students, the joint fifth most of any state. The University of Central Florida has played a strong role in this increase. In 2017, the number of students enrolled stood at 66,183. StateUniversity.com notes that in 2015, this total was 59,589. The college serves an almost equal amount of online and on-campus students. Inside Higher Ed notes that in 2015, the total number of online students was 33,034. And unlike some colleges, University of Central Florida has proven that it can get its large student population to degree completion. The current graduation rate of the college is 70%, which is significantly higher than the national average.
7. University of Colorado
When figures of all University of Colorado campuses are combined, the student population has been increasing since 2013. Additionally, the overall trend since 2001 has been for a consistent increase, with admissions only dipping slightly in 2005 and 2012. Today, there are 67,002 students across the college, compared to 47,642 in 2001. The most popular campus across the University of Colorado is in Boulder, which serves over half of those currently enrolled. The University of Colorado has many achievements across its campuses. Perhaps most notably, five of its faculty members are Nobel Laureates and nine are MacArthur Fellows.
6. University of Maryland, University College
The University of Maryland is a well-regarded college, ranking at a joint 63rd best American university on US News. University College is its online school, which considers itself a separate college. Inside Higher Ed states that it had the eighth highest online enrollment of any college in 2015, at 48,677. It also managed a 15% increase on the previous year. In 2017, the college’s enrollment hit an even higher total of 91,000 students. Impressively, the retention rates of undergraduate and graduate students had also improved by more than 5%.
5. Liberty University
In 2015, Liberty University was the US college with the third highest overall enrollment, StateUniversity.com reveals. However, of the top three, Liberty University was the only college to increase its enrollment over 2014’s number, and it did this by 4%. Inside Higher Ed reveals that the vast majority of this increase in enrollment is due to online degrees. 72,519 of Liberty’s 77,338 2015 student body studied online. However, the college’s website states that current enrollment figures have ballooned to over 100,000 individuals. Liberty University’s home state, Virginia, saw a 13% increase in student enrollment from 2006 to 2016, states CollegeBoard.
4. Lone Star College System
Of the top five largest enrollment colleges in America, the Lone Star College System saw the most dramatic increase in enrollment in 2015. StateUniversity.com reveals that it enjoyed a 6% increase to over 64,072 students. Inside Higher Ed reveals that 21,811 of these were online students. Texas itself is the state that is seeing the largest increase in student numbers. CollegeBoard reveals that from 2006 to 2016, overall student enrollment in the state grew by 25%. As the Lone Star College System is a community college, it is much cheaper for attendees. The college only costs $800 per semester, compared to $5,201 for Texas A&M University. Additionally, student enrollment currently stands at 99,000.
3. Southern New Hampshire University
Inside Higher Ed reveals that from 2012 to 2015, Southern New Hampshire University enjoyed a 400% increase in online enrollments. The total figure grew from 11,286 to 56,371. In the years since, online enrollment has increased even more rapidly and currently stands at over 90,000. On campus, the college has over 3,000 students. Southern New Hampshire University’s rapid increase in online students is due to its high standard of education. In fact, the college has even won the 21st Century Distance Learning Award for Excellence in Online Technology from The United States Distance Learning Association.
2. Arizona State University
Some methodology lists separate the different Arizona State University campuses, giving it a range of different figures. However, the college’s website considers all of its campuses to be one institution. When these campus populations are combined, then Arizona State University’s enrollment has increased from 73,378 in 2012 to 98,146 in 2016. The college’s online division, the Skysong campus, has seen the largest increase in this time, going from 6,266 to 26,200 students. However, every campus has seen growth. This is great news, as Arizona State University has many claims to being a great college. For instance, for the last four years, US News has named it America’s most innovative college.
1. Western Governors University
This college is the brainchild of 19 American governors, who decided to create one of the first online universities. Western Governors University has seen a large increase in students over the last decade. Each methodology source gives a different figure for the college’s enrollment in 2015. But the college itself states that it was 63,964 and had a 21% increase over five years. In 2018, its enrollment has dramatically expanded to 100,546 students. Part of what appeals to students who attend Western Governors University is that its online courses are designed in partnership with leading employers, giving job prospects a boost.
StateUniverstiy.com, Top 500 Ranked Colleges – Highest Total Enrollment: http://www.stateuniversity.com/rank/tot_enroll_rank.html
CollegeBoard, Trends in Higher Education: https://trends.collegeboard.org/college-pricing/figures-tables/ten-year-percentage-increase-total-public-enrollment-state
Inside Higher Ed, Who’s Up and Who’s Down in Online Enrollment: https://www.insidehighered.com/digital-learning/article/2017/05/03/whos-and-whos-down-online-enrollments
US News, 10 Colleges With the Most Applicants: https://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/the-short-list-college/articles/2017-09-14/10-colleges-with-the-most-applications
US News, 10 Universities With the Most Undergraduate Students: https://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/the-short-list-college/articles/2017-12-05/10-universities-with-the-most-undergraduate-students
National Center for Education Statistics, Fast Facts, Highest enrollment: https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=74
USA Today, The top 100 colleges, universities where student applications are on the rise in the US: https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2018/10/13/college-applications-universities-rise-popular/38064683/
Statista, Undergraduate enrollment in U.S. colleges and universities from 2007/08 to 2017/18 (in millions): https://www.statista.com/statistics/235406/undergraduate-enrollment-in-us-universities/