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Friday, July 31, 2020

Fall 2020 undergraduate enrollment preview

You’ve heard references to “summer melt” before. Summer melt refers to students who make a deposit confirming they will attend the University in the fall but then have a change of mind and do not enroll. Every summer comes with melt. Around the country, pretty much every higher education institution is carefully following the melt this year because nearly all institutions assume the melt will be higher. A higher melt can lead to enrolling a smaller class than expected, which can of course lead to budgetary challenges.

How are things looking at the University? Currently, the melt rate for undergraduates is 5.2% at this time. Last year’s total was 4.1%. Here are some other comparisons of interest. Among Minnesota students: melt is currently 3.0% in 2020 and was 2.6% in 2019. For reciprocity state students: 7.2% in 2020, 4.8% in 2019. Non-reciprocity non-resident students: 12.3% in 2020, 6.7% in 2019. International students: 11.6% in 2020, 9.4% in 2019. 

The U is aiming for an incoming class of 6000 undergraduate students and admitted aggressively in anticipation of a higher melt rate. Thus, there’s some cushion in the numbers to allow for substantial melt. If the U reaches an overall 10% melt level, which would be more than twice as high as last year’s rate, that would result in about 6100 new students enrolling. The University is taking some additional creative steps to try to diminish melt, including looking at the feasibility of having first-year students from China take online and one in-person class together as part of a residential experience in Beijing. 

For CLA, our confirmations are up 2.3% compared to this time last year (2,766 in 2020 versus 2,704 in 2019). Our target for first-year students is 2,550. Based on orientation registration and no-shows and the higher melt, our current projection is that we will come in short of that target by about 100 students. Students also just received their notices about the mix of their classes that will be in person or in some form of online, and that adds one more unusual variable to this year’s mix. Our Office of Undergraduate Education has been reaching out to admitted students to create a welcoming environment. 

Transfer students are also a critical part of the CLA student body. Our target for new transfer students in the fall is 1,250. So far, the news is good. Confirmations are up 10% compared to this time last year (1,556 in 2020 versus 1,414 in 2019). Indeed, our current number of confirmations at 1,556 already exceeds last year’s total of 1,493, and we will expect additional confirmations through August. As with first year students, melt occurs with transfer students but we are hopeful to be on track of reaching or exceeding our target. The transfer market has been getting more challenging in recent years, so this is a strong result.