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MADISON — New fall freshman applications for University of Wisconsin System universities are up by about 30% over each of the last two years. Moreover, applications by Wisconsin residents, first-generation students, and underrepresented minorities are also up, the UW System reported this week.

Administrators credit the increases to several actions the UW System took over the last 15 months to simplify the application process, including waiving application fees, creating the new EApp for electronic application, allowing students to use a single application for multiple universities, and suspending the requirement that students take the ACT.

“I’m thrilled with these positive application numbers. Our strategies are working, and we are setting the stage for success,” UW System President Tommy Thompson said. “While the pandemic challenged us all, students are primed to get back to campus this fall, and we want them to know that we are ready as ever to help them achieve their education goals.”

In addition to applications being up systemwide, they are also up at each of the 13 universities.

The specific breakdown was not released this week.

Admissions rates are also up slightly – 82% in June, for example, compared to 77% during the same month in 2020 and 77% during the same month in 2019.

Thompson cautioned that not all students who apply and are admitted will enroll. However, he said the increase in applications is a positive signal about first-year enrollments.

Largely due to the pandemic, enrollment was down at UW System universities in fall 2020 by 1.7%, according to final figures. That’s less than the national decline of 4% for public institutions, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

So far, UW System universities have received 133,484 applications from new freshmen for fall 2021, about 29% higher than at the same point in 2020 and 33% higher than 2019.

The rate of students completing applications is also higher than previous years, another sign the strategies implemented by the UW System are working, Thompson said.

Wisconsin resident numbers

Applications from Wisconsin residents stand at

  • 69,435 total. This compares to roughly 50,000 each of the last two years at the same time.
  • 22,820 from underrepresented minorities. This is up 19% compared to June 2020 and 23% compared to June 2019.
  • 40,085 from first-generation students. This is up 30% compared to the same time in 2020 and 25% in 2019.

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