Demographics of the freshmen class reflect growth

Natalia Sperry

The freshman class of 2021 is claimed to be the largest, most diverse class in Colorado State University’s history.

A record number of 5,031 freshman students enrolled for the Fall of 2017, a 1.5 percent increase from the previous year. The previous year, with 4,956 students, was the largest freshman class CSU on record, according to the Office of Institutional Research, Planning and Effectiveness. 


SOURCE reports 5,115 students, which differs from the new student profile provided by the Office of Institutional Research because first-year students, student athletes, international students enrolled in summer semester classes and students participating in Semester at Sea are included in the University’s reports of the new class.

The class of 2021 follows the general trend of increase in both size and ethnic diversity at CSU. This includes increased enrollment for out-of-state students. Likewise, the University reports an overall record GPA of 3.62 and a record number of 421 first-year students in the Honors Program, according to Honors Assistant Director Diane Burton. 

“Our growth is pretty consistent, 1 to 2 percent each year, and that’ll continue to be a target moving forward,” said Leslie Taylor, interim vice president for enrollment and access.

According to Taylor, the upward trend allows CSU to accept more students without having to worry about providing adequate student housing and transportation.

Class demographics can be broken down into five components: ethnic diversity, gender, academic profile (including SAT and ACT scores as well as high school GPA and rank), first-generation status and residency.

Ethnic Diversity

Percentage of minority students over ten years | CSU office of Institutional Research, Planning and Effectiveness

Since 2016, the number of students with minority status has increased by 2.6 percent, according to the new student profile .

CSU uses the federal definition for minority status. The definition classifies minority students as those who self-report as African-American, Asian, Hispanic/Latino, Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, Native American or multi-racial, according to institutional research manager Heather Novak. This does not include international students. 

The current freshman class includes 1,366 ethnically diverse students, who make up about 27.2 percent of the class. African-American and Asian students make up less than 3 percent of the total class each. Hispanic/Latino students are 16.7 percent of the class, which is higher than the number of Hispanic/Latino students in the total student body, as reported in the 2016 Fall census. Multi-racial students comprise 4.8 percent of the total, and Hawaiian, Pacific Islander and Native American students make up less than 1 percent each.

“We always want to continue to grow the diversity of each classes to more closely mirror the state of Colorado,” Taylor said. “We’re not quite there yet … and diverse populations will continue to be larger part of (Colorado’s) population, so we will continue to concert our efforts to recruit students from these backgrounds.”


This year’s class is the most diverse, following an increasing trend at CSU. Over the past five years, a 7 percent increase has been reported in the percentage of students who fall into ethnic minorities of each freshman class.

Gender Diversity

The freshman class is reported to be 53.7 percent female-identified, with 2,700 students, and 46.3 percent male-identified, with 2,331 students.

Although the University allows students to self-identify their gender when applying, the federal government only looks at binary options when it comes to breaking down the demographics of a class. Students must either be male or female identified.

The University has considered extending their analysis of the class profile to include a broader spectrum of gender, due to the efforts of the President’s Commission on Diversity and Inclusion, according to Taylor.

Academic Profile

Despite the record average high school grade point average of 3.62, the overall academic profile of students remains largely unchanged. Median SAT scores remain in the range of 560 for critical thinking, and the average ACT score of 25.2 is the same as it was last year.

The reported average 3.62 GPA reflects a 0.28 percent increase. Average GPA has remained largely within the range of 3.6 since 2013.

Ten-year high school GPA quartiles | CSU office of Institutional Research, Planning and Effectiveness

Taylor said improvement of the academic profile is a high priority for the University, but stressed that one criteria does not outweigh the other when it comes to building each new class of freshman.

“In the admission part of it, whether a student is admitted or not, none of these categories is a consideration over the others,” Taylor said. “Each student is first looked at in terms of academic profile. Then we do holistic review, (looking at) where they’re from, any extenuating circumstances, their background (etc.)” 

First-generation status and residency

Percentage of CSU First Generation Status | CSU office of Institutional Research, Planning and Effectiveness

As with the class of 2016, first-generation students make up 22 percent of the freshman class. This is the lowest since Fall 2010.

Out-of-state students make up 33.4 percent of the new freshman class, reflecting an increase of 7.4 percent from Fall 2013.

Colorado freshman still make up more than a majority of the class at 67 percent. While the class includes students from all 50 states, enrollment of students from California, Texas and Illinois demonstrated the most growth with an increased enrollment of 16 percent from those states, according to SOURCE

Looking to the Future

In his Fall Address, President Tony Frank celebrated the diversity of the new class and also talked about his goal for improvement.

“Part of the role of a university president, at least as I have come to understand it, is to use these same milestones to provide perspective on work that remains undone, areas that require our attention,” Frank said. 

Percentage of CSU residents versus non-Residents | CSU office of Institutional Research, Planning and Effectiveness

According to Taylor, the University wants to not only increase the amount of students represented in each demographic category but also improve the overall profile of incoming students. 

“We have some goals to be sure that we are offering equal access to lower income, first generation and ethnically diverse students,” Taylor said. “We want to grow, (but) we also want to have overall better students (academically) as well.”

Collegian news reporter Natalia Sperry can be reached at or on Twitter @Natalia_Sperry.