West Chester surpasses IUP as largest SSHE university
October 18, 2013 11:00 AM
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For the first time since anyone can remember, IUP will not be able to refer to itself as the largest of Pennsylvania’s 14 state-owned universities. That distinction has gone to West Chester University, whose enrollment surpassed IUP’s by nearly 850 students this fall.

That IUP had slipped to the No. 2 spot on the roster was highlighted when state system officials presented their annual systemwide enrollment tally at a board of governor’s meeting Wednesday. The tally shows that West Chester’s enrollment grew by 2.8 percent to 15,845 students. Meanwhile, IUP’s enrollment dropped 4.2 percent to 14,997 students.

IUP’s enrollment figure includes students in the noncredit culinary arts and police academy programs. Excluding those programs, IUP has 14,728 undergraduate and graduate students. West Chester has no noncredit programs adding to its enrollment.

State system spokesman Kenn Marshall said IUP has held the No. 1 spot on the roster certainly since the state system was formed in 1983, and, as far as he knows, well before that. IUP officials said they are not bothered by the change in status.

“We don’t even consider it news from our perspective,” said university spokeswoman Michelle Fryling. “It’s not a competition. We’re part of a system.”

She said the university is more concerned with recruiting quality students and helping them to find their success.

“It’s about having the right students and meeting our mission,” she said.

But for IUP, that’s harder to do these days as the pool of southwestern Pennsylvania high school graduates is shrinking on account of changing demographics. Southwestern Pennsylvania is the university’s primary market.

Considering the changing demographics, IUP officials had been preparing for a lower head count this fall. Overall enrollment in the state system was down by 2.1 percent to 112,315 students from last fall.

And although officials say they aren’t troubled by the slip to the No. 2 spot, it had been a point of pride for some that IUP was the largest of the 14 universities.

Fryling said that IUP referring to itself as the largest as the state-owned universities had been more of a handy descriptor than a proud statement about itself.

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