Report: UNC enrollment dropped in 12 of 16 system schools  

Club leaders at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill interact with students outside the student union in a quad known at "The Pit" on Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Hannah Schoenbaum)

RALEIGH — Enrollment in 12 of the 16 UNC System schools declined this fall for the first time in nine years, according to the 2022 Fall Enrollment Report. Only four schools saw increased enrollment; Elizabeth City State, Fayetteville State, N.C. A&T and UNC Chapel Hill. 

The report was presented at the Nov. 16 meeting of the UNC Board of Governors’ Committee on Educational Planning, Policies, and Programs meeting. 

Per the report, the overall enrollment for fall 2022 across the UNC System was 239,663 students. That is a decrease of 4,837 students (almost 2%) from the previous fall and the lowest total enrollment since Fall 2018. 

New student enrollment also fell. First-time freshmen decreased by 390 (just over 1%) and new graduate students decreased for the first time in eight years, dropping by 1,425 (7.84%).  

New transfer student enrollment declined for the fourth straight year, coming in at 15,623 for 2022 — it’s lowest level since 2013. The report says the transfer drop “mirrors” national trends. 

The UNC System continued to see significant enrollment demand from first-time freshmen outside North Carolina. The percentage of out-of-state first-time freshmen increased from 15.9% in 2021 to 18.4% in 2022. This represents a significant one-year increase, and the 2022 percentage is the highest in the past 10 years.  

The report says external projections had anticipated a “significant dip in North Carolina high school graduates in 2022 and significant national declines over the next decade.” In the same vein, the report says the number of high school graduates is projected to peak around 2025 and then decrease through 2037 to levels similar to that of 2015. 

Looking at enrollment from a diversity perspective, minority and underrepresented ethnicities increased for the 10th year in a row. Per the report, one out of every three students in the UNC System is now classified as an underrepresented minority student. 

“Between the fall of 2013 and the fall of 2022, the percentage of students enrolled in the UNC System from an underrepresented minority group (American Indian or Alaska Native; Black or African American; Hispanic or Latino; or two or more races) increased from 29.1 percent to 34.7 percent,” the report states. “The largest increase was for individuals who identify as Hispanic or Latino, who increased from 4.7 percent to 8.7 percent during that time.”  

Out-of-state student demand for UNC System schools was “unprecedented” this year, and according to the report, four schools exceeded their caps for out-of-state enrollment: N.C. A&T (41%), NC State (19%), UNC Wilmington (20%) and Western Carolina (22%). 

This is the second year in a row N.C. A&T has exceeded its 35% out-of-state cap and the Board of Governors voted to fine N.C. A&T $1.97 million as a result. The fine will go to the UNC Need-Based Financial Aid Program. 

Board member and former statehouse senator Joel Ford opposed the fine, saying he “can’t punish a HMSI (historically minority-serving institution) for being successful.” Following Ford’s remarks, the chairman of the board’s budget and finance committee, James L. Holmes, indicated further discussion of the program was needed. 

Just this past spring, the board had increased out-of-state enrollment limits at five schools including N.C. A&T. Caps were raised to 25% at Fayetteville State and Winston-Salem State, 35% at N.C. A&T and N.C. Central, and 50% at Elizabeth City State University. 

The Board of Governors’ Educational Planning Committee has recommended that the board increase the out-of-state cap from 18% to 25% at five more schools to include East Carolina University, UNC Asheville, UNC Greensboro, UNC Pembroke and Western Carolina University. 

Enrollment drops could have a financial impact since the UNC System receives state funding. But with out-of-state demand increasing, the UNC Board of Governors has signaled it will raise the out-of-state enrollment cap at five more of the system’s schools.  

UNC System officials plan to ask lawmakers next year for additional funding for UNC Asheville, UNC Greensboro and UNC Pembroke where the decline in students has been particularly sharp and the Board of Governors has proposed a funding drop cap for the affected schools, according to a report by Business NC. 

Additionally, finances might be shored up through a 5% out-of-state tuition increase which appears to have been approved by the Budget, Finance and Infrastructure Committee at a Nov. 9 Board of Trustees meeting. The increase for out-of-state undergraduate student tuition would take effect next year. That 5% translates to a tuition increase of $1,780. Tuition will go from $35,580 this year to $37,360 next year for nonresident undergraduates. In-state tuition will not change. 



About A.P. Dillon 1208 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_