Posted: October 22, 2003

Contact: Doug Anderson,, 651-201-1426

Enrollment at the 33 Minnesota State Colleges and Universities continues to rise this fall, with about 5,500 more students taking credit-based courses than at the same time last year. Campuses reported a 3.3 percent increase in headcount enrollment for fall semester 2003 over fall semester 2002.

This is the fifth consecutive year of significant enrollment growth. The fall semester headcount enrollment of 171,457 students is again a record high for the system. Last year's fall semester enrollment, which also set a record, was 165,908.

Measured another way, the projected full-year-equivalent enrollment in credit classes has increased by 2.6 percent. Campuses project a full-year-equivalent enrollment this year of 136,072, compared with the actual full-year-equivalent enrollment of 132,586 for the 2002-2003 academic year.

"We are gratified that students continue to perceive an education at a state college or university as a great value," said James H. McCormick, chancellor of the system. "The word is out that the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities offer high-quality education that leads to good jobs."

McCormick cited several factors that may have contributed to the growth in enrollment:

- Online course offerings have expanded to meet rising student demand. This semester, 10,836 students are taking online courses, a 49.3 percent increase over last year and a 17-fold increase over fall 1999. More than 980 course sections now are offered online (

- Among those taking online courses are Minnesota National Guard troops stationed overseas. About 390 soldiers stationed in Bosnia and nearby countries are taking courses from nine Minnesota State Colleges and Universities this semester.

- An influx of laid-off workers from mining, airlines and other industries who are going back to college to train for new careers has increased enrollment at some state colleges and universities.

- Several colleges and universities have expanded offerings in high-demand fields such as nursing, leading to enrollment increases.

- The sluggish economy may have played a role in rising enrollments. Traditionally, enrollment tends to grow in hard economic times when people have difficulty finding employment.

The enrollment increase comes at a time when colleges and universities have been forced to cut back because of reductions in the state appropriation to higher education. Tuition and fees increased by an average of 12.6 percent for 2003-2004 and are expected to increase by 12.5 percent for 2004-2005. But even those increases are not enough to make up for the loss of $191.5 million in state funds over the current biennium.

"While the enrollment increase for fall 2003 is good news for our colleges and universities, we continue to be concerned about the impact of tuition increases on our students," McCormick said. "We have heard of students walking away from the registration window or taking fewer credits than they had planned to take because of the cost of tuition. We need to make sure we keep college affordable for all Minnesotans."

(Click here for enrollment numbers at each of the 33 state colleges and universities.)