Spring student headcounts increase — with one exception

Enrollment increased this spring at seven of the state’s colleges and universities.

The lone exception: North Idaho College, which is struggling to attract and retain students while scrambling to maintain its accreditation.

All told, spring enrollment is up 4% from a year ago, according to data compiled by the State Board of Education. And five colleges and universities have pulled out of an enrollment tailspin that began in the spring of 2020 — when the COVID-19 pandemic forced schools to close their doors, and prompted many students to put their education on hold.

Here are the spring headcounts:


2020 2023 2024 One-year change
Boise State University 22,042 21,808 22,352 +544
University of Idaho 10,210 10,778 11,408 +630
Idaho State University 10,557 10,584 10,726 +142
Lewis-Clark State College 2,964 2,721 2,781 +60
College of Western Idaho 17,589 16,888 17,408 +520
College of Southern Idaho 9,268 10,880 12,198 +1,318
North Idaho College 4,801 3,955 3,793 -162
College of Eastern Idaho 1,536 1,740 1,927 +187
Total 78,967 79,354 82,593 +3,239


College and university officials attribute their enrollment growth to several factors.

At Idaho State University, Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management Corey Zink points to recruitment and retention. Last fall, Idaho State attracted its largest freshman class in nearly a decade, while student retention rates have improved by nearly 10 percentage points over three years.

“More students are choosing Idaho State University, and more students are staying enrolled from one semester to the next,” Zink said Monday. “Both of these data points are exciting to see for our ISU community.”

Meanwhile, Boise State University is working on several projects designed to drive enrollment growth: student recruiting; expanded scholarships and financial aid; and new student housing. “Increasing enrollment rarely happens by accident,” Vice President for Student Affairs Jeremiah Shinn said Tuesday.

At the University of Idaho, where enrollment increased almost across the board, value is a consideration.

“Our strong aid packages and support for our students shows in our continued enrollment growth,” President C. Scott Green said in a recent news release.

Lewis-Clark points to several divisions that are growing more rapidly than the college as a whole: technical and industrial education; business and computer science; nursing and health sciences; and social sciences. Lewis-Clark hopes to further expand its reach in health sciences, with a master’s degree in nursing scheduled to open this fall.

“LC State is growing its enrollment and expanding its programs to meet the vital health care education needs in our region,” President Cynthia Pemberton said in a recent news release.

The outlier in this year’s list, NIC, has seen its headcount drop by more than 20% since the onset of the pandemic.

The college’s ongoing accreditation fight has certainly been a factor. Beset by years of staff turnover and dysfunction on its board of trustees, NIC will remain accredited until at least early 2025. But regional accreditors have said NIC has failed to make “demonstrated progress” in several areas, and accreditors are planning what they have called a “highly focused” site visit, scheduled for October.

Still, NIC sees some encouraging signs in its new enrollment numbers. The overall headcount declined again — but at a lower rate than a year ago, which suggests enrollment is leveling off. Meanwhile, the number of first-time, degree-seeking students is up 18.3% from the previous spring.

“That’s an important number for us,” NIC spokesman Tom Greene said. “That’s where the stream starts. It gives us a pretty good idea for the future.”

Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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