After seeing yet another decline in enrollment numbers, UW-Whitewater on Friday announced that student applications had increased 87% in September and October when compared to last year.
University officials credit a campaign that waived the application fee for prospective undergraduate students for those two months. The UW-Whitewater Foundation funded the effort.
In those months, about 4,300 prospective students applied to the university. That’s about 2,000 more applications than last year during the same two months, according to the announcement.
Not every student who applied will enroll at either UW-W campus, something Jackie Briggs, the university’s director of admissions, acknowledged in the announcement.
While the campaign that waived the application fee is over, the application period is still open.
The university’s focus now turns to selling prospective students and their families on what UW-W has to offer.
“We’re excited to see such enthusiasm and interest in joining the Warhawk family,” Briggs said in the announcement. “The application fee can be a barrier for some students, so by eliminating it during this time frame, we were able to make the first step of the admissions process as easy as possible.”
UW System data released earlier this month showed UW-Whitewater saw declining enrollment for the fourth year in a row, which has hurt the university’s finances.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, which also affected the university financially, UW-W officials in January announced intentions for steep budget cuts, largely blaming the economic situation on declining enrollment.
UW-W’s enrollment declined 3.6% from fall 2019 to fall 2020. That percentage is nearly twice the 1.9% decline the UW System saw as a whole.
In sharing enrollment figures across its campuses, UW System officials also said such declines are in line with national demographic changes.
UW-W officials have said the enrollment drop was not as bad as some had feared.
In spring, UW-W cut the application fee from $50 to $25 at both its Whitewater and Rock County campuses in response to the pandemic.