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Applications at Cal Poly Humboldt drastically increase, amid recent higher ed slumps

Applications at Cal Poly Humboldt have increased drastically this admissions cycle.
Cal Poly Humboldt
Applications at Cal Poly Humboldt have increased drastically this admissions cycle.

The university, formerly known as Humboldt State University, is bucking application trends in higher education.

Applications for first-time undergraduate students applying for fall 2023 enrollment have increased about 76% to date, compared to last year. And the total number of applicants has increased about 74% to date, over the same period.

The news comes after college enrollments have declined nationwide due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which negatively affected college admissions cycles.

Peggy Metzger, Interim Executive Director of Enrollment Management and Financial Aid Director, said application numbers are starting to look more like they did in pre-pandemic days.

"COVID hit, and then we really dipped. So the application numbers, and again, we don't know yet how much that will actually yield in terms of actual bodies on campus, but the application numbers at this point look more like 2017, 2018 in there, which is way before COVID," she said.

Metzger said for the past few years, the university has extended its application deadline by two months because enrollment has been so low. This year, the application deadline has only been extended by two weeks, although she said there's the possibility it could be extended further.

She credits the university's success to its transition to a Cal Poly school earlier this year, as well as offering a variety of new degree programs, ranging from energy systems engineering to applied fire science to cannabis studies.

"I think it's the Cal Poly designation. The university has been working really hard to recruit students and say, 'Hey, this is really exciting.' We have nine new majors starting in the fall. The Cal Poly designation is super exciting, and that's generated buzz and generated the ability to market ourselves in a new way," she said.

A recent report from the admissions nonprofit Common App showed good news across higher ed. Data showed that applications to four-year institutions have increased 26% compared to before the pandemic began. This indicates enrollment may rebound to pre-pandemic levels.

Jane Vaughan is a regional reporter for Jefferson Public Radio. Jane began her journalism career as a reporter for a community newspaper in Portland, Maine. She's been a producer at New Hampshire Public Radio and worked on WNYC's On The Media.