Big jump in first-time freshmen boosts UNK enrollment to 6,275 students

KEARNEY – With a freshman class 125 students larger than last year, the University of Nebraska at Kearney logs an enrollment increase for fall 2021, to 6,275.

First-time, full-time freshman enrollment increased 16%, attributable to gains of 70% in out-of-state freshmen, 8.9% in Nebraska freshmen and 107% in international freshmen. Graduate student enrollment increased 0.4%.

Total undergraduates from states outside Nebraska increased 19% to 586. For the first time this fall these students are benefiting from the New Nebraskan Scholarship, a new program that discounts out-of-state tuition to the Nebraska rate. UNK freshmen from outside Nebraska make up 14.6% of the enrolled class – the highest percentage in 10 years.

“This is especially good news for UNK and for Kearney, particularly in light of the ongoing challenges with COVID-19 and economic uncertainties for some students and their families,” said Kelly Bartling, vice chancellor for enrollment management and marketing. “Our faculty, staff and students have worked hard to adjust and maintain the quality UNK experience that we are known for. Increasing enrollment is a priority and campus has worked as a team on recruitment and student success.”

The enrollment increase – 0.8% overall – is the first in nearly a decade. Analysis also shows the increasing diversity of the student body. Ninety-two of 93 Nebraska counties are represented; as well as 47 states (no students from Alaska, Vermont or New Hampshire). Many of the out-of-state students come from Colorado (167 – up 31.5%). Iowa and Minnesota have their highest-ever enrollment of 60 and 31, respectively; and Wyoming has 23 students this fall – up 92%.

Enrollment of Hispanic freshmen is a record – 139 – up 29% over 2020.

UNK international students are from 56 countries, including 32 students from Nepal – which more than doubled – 110 from Japan and 48 from Mexico.

Tim Burkink, assistant vice chancellor for international affairs, said UNK is pleased with an increase in overall international students and a significant increase in first-year, degree-seeking students because international student mobility to the U.S. continues to be challenged by the pandemic.

“There is strong interest from international students seeking a Midwest university experience at the value UNK provides,” Burkink said.

New students are increasingly interested in business programs, with the College of Business and Technology showing a 67% increase in first-time freshmen and its largest cohort ever. Majors in management increased 103%, cyber systems is up 62%, and marketing/agribusiness/supply chain management is up 100% among first-time freshmen. Other increases among new students are in health sciences (7.7%), kinesiology and sport sciences (12.7%) and social work (38.8%), which recorded its highest new-student number ever.

In addition to a large increase in the number of students residing on campus, a significant number of undergraduate students are pursuing their education through UNK Online. There are 802 distance-only undergraduates this semester – an increase of 14.9% over last year. Nearly 90% of the 1,848 UNK graduate students are distance-only.

Total enrollment across the University of Nebraska system’s four campuses plus the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture this fall is 50,653, a 2% decline from fall 2020.

The 2021-22 academic year kicks off a two-year, across-the-board tuition freeze at the NU system, and the university is continuing its Nebraska Promise financial aid program, guaranteeing full tuition coverage for Nebraska students whose families earn $60,000 or less.

Campus enrollment totals:
  • University of Nebraska-Lincoln: 24,431 (2.7% decrease)
  • University of Nebraska at Omaha: 15,328 (3.5% decrease)
  • University of Nebraska at Kearney: 6,275 (0.8% increase)
  • University of Nebraska Medical Center: 4,387 (3.5% increase)
  • Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture: 232 (6.4% increase)