Document: See NU's preliminary fall 2012 enrollment data here.
The leader of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln says he expected this, even if he didn't broadcast it.
After graduating the two largest classes in its history in back-to-back years at its flagship campus, NU saw enrollment slip at UNL and systemwide.
The fall to 24,207 students gives UNL's recruiting staff five years to gain nearly 6,000 more students if the campus is to reach Chancellor Harvey Perlman's goal of 30,000 by 2017.
Perlman said the university had “maxed out” its capacity to recruit larger classes using its former methods. But because of more recruiters and a buzz Perlman says the Huskers have created in Big Ten country, he expects UNL to show considerable growth by next fall.
“I'm very confident that we're positioned to make some significant increases next year,” he said.
UNL's freshman classes likely will have to increase for the campus to show such growth. This fall's first-time freshman class of 3,937 was almost 4 percent smaller than the 2011 group.
Every category, including total undergraduates, shrank at UNL.
The university will continue to focus its recruiting on Nebraska, Perlman said, but also be realistic about the state's slow growth.
Recruiting efforts also will continue in places such as Chicago and Minneapolis, large urban centers in Big Ten territory, as well as in cities overseas.
Unofficial numbers showed an uptick in international students choosing UNL, Perlman said.
A smaller Big Red led to a slightly tinier University of Nebraska, despite the system's three other campuses gaining students, including the University of Nebraska at Kearney, which achieved 1.4 percent growth.
The system's four campuses and the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture have 50,180 students this fall, down from 50,364 a year ago.
The last time that number fell was 2004.
NU President J.B. Milliken said the system must do better at attracting Nebraska residents and nonresidents, as well as students interested in learning online.
The university also needs to gain more students from underrepresented populations, such as first-generation, low-income and minority students, Milliken said.
Milliken has said he wants the system's two largest campuses — UNL and the University of Nebraska at Omaha — to have 50,000 students between them by 2020.
This fall, the two campuses have 38,995 students.
In an email, Milliken said he supports the goals UNL has outlined for boosting enrollment but would have liked the campus to make progress this fall. “I continue to believe that both UNL and UNO are in a strong position to increase enrollment significantly, but we do need to step up our efforts,” he said.
UNO's enrollment climbed for the seventh straight year.
“I think it really comes down to our improved perception of quality and the value we offer,” said Pelema Morrice, UNO associate vice chancellor for enrollment management and marketing.
UNO Chancellor John Christensen has set a goal of 20,000 students by 2020. This fall, enrollment was 14,788.
UNO saw growth in its number of transfer students, international students and those closer to home.
The enrollment figures are based on a student count taken on the sixth day of classes.
Campus enrollment totals
University of Nebraska-Lincoln: 24,207 (1.6 percent decrease)
University of Nebraska at Omaha: 14,788 (0.5 percent increase)
University of Nebraska at Kearney: 7,199 (1.4 percent increase)
University of Nebraska Medical Center: 3,655 (0.8 percent increase)
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