Enrollment data and trends

At the January department chairs’ meeting, Dean Kate VandenBosch led a discussion with the chairs about undergraduate admission and enrollment trends within the college. A number of departmental five-year plans include ideas for new courses to attract additional students. Planning is also underway for a new global health major and discussions continue about a new major focused on agricultural ecosystems.

View Dean VandenBosch’s presentation on admission and enrollment trends.

Data trends and highlights

A goal of the college’s redesign is increasing enrollment and credit follows the instructor(CFI) activity. The college has seen a decline in both areas over the past five years. Enrollment and CFI are important metrics in the responsibility-centered management budget the campus launched in 2016, resulting in a loss of revenue for CALS.

CALS’s enrollment peaked at 3,600 in 2014-15, which was also the peak year for total CALS CFI. Since then, CALS numbers have dropped to under 3,100 students enrolled today. Dean VandenBosch set a goal to increase enrollment to 4,000 undergraduates by fiscal year 2023. That is a 25 percent increase over the number of students in 2018, taking advantage of capacity in CALS’ courses and making the most effective use of instructional efforts and students’ tuition.

While CALS’ CFI has been decreasing (down more than six percent in five years), other schools and colleges at UW-Madison have been increasing their CFI with new courses and programs. Human Ecology increased CFI by nearly 50 percent.

Another noteworthy enrollment trend at UW–Madison is the high number of students in their first and second years who have not yet declared a major. The number of undergraduate degrees granted remained fairly steady over the past five years of declining enrollments, indicating that students come to CALS to complete their studies at consistent rates, but spend the early years of their academic careers in a program from which they will not graduate.

Admissions data shows that a relatively small number of incoming students declare CALS. For the 2019-2020 school year, CALS had 3,298 applicants, 57 percent of whom were admitted and 18 percent enrolled. 15 CALS majors had fewer than 100 students apply for admissions, and eight of those programs had fewer than 20 applicants.