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UW-Madison plans to enroll 500 fewer students for next fall's freshman class

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UW-Madison is planning to enroll 500 fewer freshman students for next fall as it seeks to balance out a larger-than-planned class this fall.

University admissions is aiming for a freshman class size of 8,100 in 2023, UW-Madison spokesperson John Lucas said. It’s a similar goal to what UW-Madison hoped to enroll for this year’s freshman class, before a larger yield rate of enrolled students stymied plans and led to a record-breaking class size of 8,628.

Whether UW-Madison stays on target will be better known next spring. Prospective students have until mid-January to apply, and must decide whether to enroll by the end of March.

UW-Madison has undergone planned growth in recent years, UW-Madison Provost Karl Scholz said in October. Enrollment increased by nearly 10% in two years to a record 49,886. But this year’s growth was unintentional, as 3% more offers were accepted after UW-Madison accepted 3,000 fewer applications.

Lucas said the planned decrease in size for the next freshman class isn’t being driven solely by University Housing availability, but acknowledged reducing the class size would have an impact. Both the university and the admissions department declined to comment further on the admissions process.

UW-Madison is one of three University of Wisconsin System schools in which enrollment increased this year. UW-Green Bay and UW-Superior also had increases, and UW-La Crosse’s enrollment stayed even, as overall the System enrollment decreased by 1%.

This year’s class-size increase put University Housing in a crunch, requiring it to convert larger rooms into triples and lounges into quads and sextuplet rooms. It also provided financial incentives to returning students to either move off campus or relocate to the far reaches of campus in Eagle Heights.

Those strategies created just enough space for University Housing to honor all contracts with incoming freshmen, with about five dozen beds to spare out of a total capacity of 9,200 residents.

The university is also aware of off-campus housing issues, Lucas said. The rental market turned into a frenzy this year, as students scrambled for units in prime locations they felt were affordable. They even camped out overnight to try to secure leases.

Perceptions that off-campus housing is mostly leased for the following year has led to higher than usual interest in the dorms among returning students, said Brendon Dybdahl, marketing director for University Housing. University Housing typically reserves 1,000 spaces for returning students every year, but with 2,400 students indicating they’d like to return, University Housing is planning to use a lottery system this week to assign contracts.

UW-Madison plans to start collecting data on local off-campus availability for students to address housing issues, Lucas said.

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