TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — The rate of people going to college in Indiana and around the country saw a decline during the pandemic.

And while total enrollment is down at one local college, its leaders say it’s seeing growth in some key areas.

Wednesday, Indiana State University released its enrollment data. ISU said its total headcount enrollment is 8,658 which is down from last year’s enrollment of 9,459. But the university said it has 2,544 new students this semester.

The freshman class includes 1,535 students, a number ISU said is 7% higher than the 2021-2022 academic year.

ISU also stated that the number of new freshmen in its Honors College is the highest in the university’s history at 20%.

“These students can go anywhere and usually have offers from many other institutions, but they are disproportionately choosing to attend Indiana State,” said Dr. Christopher Olsen, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs. “That speaks to the high quality of our academic programs.” 

The Indiana State Advantage program introduced one year ago, offers a grant of up to $3,000 for an out-of-classroom experience; four years tuition-free for Pell-eligible Indiana students with a 3.0 or higher high school grade point average; and a guarantee that students who complete program requirements will graduate in four years or tuition is covered for remaining classes. 

Olsen said the Indiana State Advantage is an ideal program for many kinds of students. This year’s freshman class is 49% Pell-eligible, based on financial need.      

“The goal of the Indiana State Advantage, to begin with, was to extend the Honors College model to students who often traditionally do not get those types of advantages,” Olsen said. “If you come here from any background, you get what a fraction of students at other schools get.” 

The new freshmen are 81% from Indiana. Marion County has the most students, with Vigo County second. Both of those counties showed increases from last year.