BLACKSBURG — There are 1,004 extra Hokies at Virginia Tech this fall.
That number is official after Tech posted its fall census numbers — including 7,604 entering freshmen — on its institutional research website. That brings the total of undergraduate students up to a record high 29,250, according to Tech’s census conducted Sept. 23.
Colleges have used the fall census benchmark as a measuring stick for their enrollment since the mid-1960s, according to a state analyst.
Virginia Tech made national headlines in the spring after it announced it estimated there would be about 1,000 extra freshmen in Blacksburg this fall.
The school went to great lengths to handle the challenge of the over-enrollment. That included pursuing student housing space at a local Holiday Inn Express and the Inn at Virginia Tech, offering financial incentives for some students to delay enrollment and converting space on campus — such as study lounges — into dorm rooms.
Tech administrators contended what they’ve labeled an “enrollment surge” is a good problem to have. That’s because attendance at colleges across the state and country is lagging.
Preliminary numbers indicate overall attendance at community colleges and private institutions is down across Virginia, according to Tod Massa, director of policy analytics for the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV).
Though the number of undergraduates at public, four-year colleges in Virginia is up by almost 1,000 students, according to early numbers, Massa said that there’s an overall drop of about 3,000 undergrads when looking at all higher education institutions in the state.
Stagnation is being felt at places like Radford University. Fall census numbers won’t be available from that school for another week, according to a school spokeswoman. But early enrollment estimates indicate that the number of new freshmen on the school’s Radford campus is down by 163 students, falling from 1,762 freshmen last fall to 1,599 this fall.
Overall enrollment at the school is up from 9,335 students a year ago to 10,686 students this fall. That growth is especially prevalent in graduate programs, following the school’s merger with the Jefferson College of Health Sciences in Roanoke to create the Radford University Carilion campus there.
There are 1,046 students on Radford’s Roanoke campus.
In Blacksburg, Virginia Tech has long had a goal to grow the school to 30,000 undergrads by 2023. The over-enrollment doesn’t change that goal, Tech President Tim Sands said at his state of the university address last month.
Since 2014, Sands’ first fall at Tech, the school’s undergraduate numbers have grown every year, climbing from 24,179 that first year to the present figure of 29,250.
To reach that goal, the university says it will carefully manage its enrollment in an effort to prevent a repeat of this year.
“We will take all the factors that led to the surge into consideration as we prepare to admit next year’s entering class to make sure that we don’t significantly overshoot, or undershoot, our target,” Sands said at his address.
The final numbers in the fall census give the university a good place to start looking at how to “better manage enrollment moving forward,” according to school spokesman Mark Owczarski.
That’s because the school will have “better data,” and a better understanding of the impact of other factors like Tech’s Innovation Campus, Owczarski wrote in an email.
“Enrollment management is a complicated and complex process that requires data to inform it and we are getting better at that,” he wrote.