Published: Sept. 25, 2023

Record in-state student enrollment led CU Boulder’s fall enrollment to record highs, according to census data published on Monday. 

The Colorado resident first-year class increased by 7.3% to 4,035 students, accounting for 53.5% of the first-year class and 13.1% of the total undergraduate population. It also continues multi-year trends in diversity, setting all-time highs in the number of in-state students who identify as Black/African American (172 students), American Indian/Alaska Native (72 students) and Asian American (588 students).

Total enrollment climbed roughly 2.9% to 37,153, which is higher than recent projections, due largely to lower than anticipated summer melt—when accepted high school students who plan to enroll don’t actually enroll—record retention rates and an increase in first-year Colorado resident enrollment. 

By the numbers

  • Transfer students are up about 6.8% from fall 2022, bucking industry trends. Colorado residents make up a majority of the transfer population at 62%.
  • Incoming female students represent more than 50% of the class (up from 49%). 
  • Students of color account for 30.4% of the first-year class. A record 2,292 first-year students of color enrolled this fall, a 12.5% increase.
  • First-generation students make up 16.1% of the first-year class, with 1,214 students enrolled.
  • The expansion of the CU Promise program in May led to the second consecutive year CU Boulder enrolled more than 1,000 first-year Pell Grant students, a first for our campus. There are 1,049 Pell Grant students enrolled this fall.

Celebrating student success

Increasing retention rates and creating a sense of belonging among CU Boulder undergraduate students has been a top priority of the Buff Undergraduate Success (BUS) initiative. Developed in fall 2021, the BUS Leadership Implementation Team has worked to advance undergraduate success efforts across campus through programs and policies developed via cross-campus collaboration and data-informed decision-making.

The census data reflects several measures of success related to the BUS initiative, with records in multiple focus areas:

  • Second-fall retention, which measures students retained after their first-year, hit 89.1% in 2023 (previous record was 87.8% set in 2021).
  • Third fall retention peaked at 81.7% (81.3% set by the fall 2017 and 2020 cohorts).
  • The six-year graduation rate for the fall 2017 cohort is 74.9%, surpassing 74.7% achieved by the fall 2016 cohort.

“We are proud that CU Boulder continues to be a destination of choice for students and that our efforts to attract and retain diverse and talented students are succeeding,” said Chancellor Phil DiStefano. “We’re also attentive to the challenges posed by higher-than-expected enrollment and are committed to addressing the needs of students, faculty, staff and community members.”

“This fall’s enrollment class shows that predicting enrollment continues to be a challenge for institutions of higher education, as we saw a greater than anticipated number of students commit to and ultimately enroll at CU Boulder. We are identifying ways we can better predict incoming class sizes moving forward,” said Patrick O’Rourke, CU Boulder’s chief operating officer. “Our increase in resident students this year continues to reflect that CU Boulder’s world-class academic experience is an attractive option for both Coloradans and students from across the country.”

Enrollment changes will yield modest changes from preliminary budgets, which will be reassessed with the new census data and communicated later this fall.

CU Boulder’s budget model dictates net tuition revenue, which funds mandatory costs, a strategic fund, schools/colleges and administrative support units.