Jeniffer Solis

(Nevada Current) For higher education, one of the biggest challenges leftover from the pandemic years is getting students to sign up.

In recent years enrollment at many Nevada higher education institutions — like higher education institutions nationally — has plateaued compared to pre-pandemic levels. But at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas the tide has finally turned.

Spring enrollment for degree-seeking undergraduates at UNLV is up 3%, compared to last year. Enrollment for degree-seeking graduates this spring was even higher, as UNLV recorded a 9% increase in student enrollment compared to 2023.

The number of students who received state support to cover tuition and enroll full-time also increased by about 5%.

In total UNLV enrolled 29,360 students for the 2024 spring semester, a record number of undergraduate and graduate students compared to previous years, according to a report released by the Office of Decision Support.

The record-breaking milestone comes after years of enrollment decline at UNLV. From spring 2020 to spring 2023, UNLV saw a 2% decline in enrollment, according to data from the UNLV Office of Decision Support.

Leadership at UNLV attributed the boost in enrollment to steady and strategic long-term investments in recruiting initiatives that built substantial growth during the fall semester.  Although not a record, the university’s student enrollment in fall 2023 was near the all-time high.

UNLV’s Office of Decision Support also reported that the re-enrollment rate for all full-time undergraduates from fall 2023 to spring 2024 was a record high of nearly 94%, while the rate for the first-time, full-time cohort was 92%.

Barb Roberts, UNLV’s associate vice president for Enrollment Management, noted the overall enrollment count largely depends on retaining students over the semesters.

“We had the largest spring enrollment we’ve ever had. We had a very high retention rate for all students from fall to spring, which was super important not only for the university, but also for our students in terms of progression,” Roberts said in a campus news statement.

Officials at UNLV also credited their record enrollment to a restructured UNLV financial aid office, including the implementation of UNLV Rebel EDGE, a program that combines federal, state, and institutional aid to offer low-income full-time students free tuition and fees for up to 15 credits, along with a $1,000 annual book stipend.

Financial aid plays a critical role in student retention, and UNLV’s efforts to ensure students in need have their tuition completely covered have directly impacted student retention, Roberts said.

The university has also invested in student outreach specialists to assist students who’ve been flagged as having at least three characteristics typically associated with dropping out of college. Those characteristics include Pell grant eligibility, being a first-generation college student, or graduating from a low-performing high school in Nevada.

Many of Nevada’s other higher education facilities have also seen a positive enrollment trend this spring, according to data from the Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE). Preliminary state data indicates that enrollment across NSHE’s public institutions from spring 2023 to spring 2024 increased by nearly 7%.

“This rise is exciting and reflects the collective effort and dedication of our institutions and students, highlighting their commitment to academic excellence and educational opportunities,” said NSHE public information officer Elizabeth Callahan.

However, some universities in Nevada are still struggling to improve enrollment rates for degree seeking students. Preliminary NSHE data indicates that enrollment for degree seeking undergraduates at the University of Nevada, Reno between spring 2023 and spring 2024 fell by about 1%, while enrollment for degree seeking graduates fell by 3%.