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Sac State outreach pays off with record enrollment for Fall 2021 semester

Many Sacramento State courses, such as this Religious Studies class taught by Professor Joel Dubois, are being held in person, a back-to-campus move coinciding with high Fall 2021 enrollment. (Sacramento State/Andrea Price)

Sacramento State’s enrollment continues to soar, with more students than ever taking classes this fall despite the ongoing challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The University enrolled a record 31,588 students for the Fall 2021 semester, 78 more than Fall 2020, said Steven Salcido, associate vice president for Enrollment Management and Student Services.

Anatomy class
Students in Professor Clint Collins' Anatomy class study skelatal structure during a Fall 2021 semester that brought a record number of students into the Hornet Family. (Sacramento State/Andrea Price)

That increase, a welcome surprise to Sac State officials who at the beginning of registration in May had projected an up to 3% enrollment decrease, resulted from a broad-based effort to reach out to students. Staff contacted students by email, text and phone to provide encouragement and support, as well as information about additional classes or seats in courses, teaching innovations, and vaccine policies.

“Our Hornet Family rallied,” Salcido said. “Students responded and our enrollment began to catch up.”

Amid the overall success, the sudden pivot to online instruction in March 2020 continues to post challenges. In-person classes, however, are again a robust part of the University’s lineup, with more than 19,000 students taking at least one class on campus this semester.

First-year students and sophomores appear to have had more difficulty dealing with the changes in course delivery, Salcido said. That is reflected in student retention numbers, which show slightly fewer first-years and sophomores enrolling, though the overall numbers for both remained robust.

Fall enrollment total
(Sacramento State graphics/Sam Macapagal)

Strong increases in upper-division student enrollment helped offset the freshman/sophomore decrease and carry the University to its record number.

Salcido said the University will reach out to students who left and “try to help them build a path back toward their college degree.”

A key initiative continued to make an important impact on Sac State’s Finish in Four effort to boost on-time graduation rates. Hornet Launch, a program to help incoming students graduate in four years, helped this year’s participating first-year students record the highest average course load of any University cohort. Students using the system are carrying an average of 14.6 units, very close to the 15-unit goal set through Finish in Four, Sac State’s innovative plan in support of CSU’s Graduation 2025 initiative to increase four-year graduation rates to 70% by 2025.

Under Hornet Launch, incoming freshmen no longer build their schedules based primarily on course availability. Instead, they are assigned recommended courses totaling 14 to 16 units to kick off their first semester.

unitsOverall, unit loads remained near last year’s levels for each class, about 13 units per undergraduate student.

Sac State took many steps to ensure the safety of the campus community as faculty, staff, and students began returning in August. Among other measures, the University requires everyone on campus to be fully vaccinated and to wear face coverings indoors.

Earlier this week, President Robert S. Nelsen reported that only 88 students had failed to certify their vaccination status and will be unable to come to campus until they certify that they are fully inoculated, qualify for an exemption, or do not plan to access the campus or campus programs.

“I’m very proud of our students,” said Ed Mills, vice president for Student Affairs. “The pandemic has created so many challenges and hardships for our students and their families. But they are persevering toward their degree goals.”

The University plans to stay in close contact with students and provide them with the tools to “help them navigate these uncertain times,” Mills said.

Students on campus, Fall 2021.
Students who are part of Sacramento State's record enrollment make the campus a bustling place. (Sacramento State/Hrach Avetisyan)

 

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About Cynthia Hubert

Cynthia Hubert came to Sacramento State in November 2018 after an award-winning career writing for the Sacramento Bee. Cynthia believes everyone has a good story. She lives in East Sacramento with her two cats, who enjoy bird-watching from their perch next to the living-room window.

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