Enrollment: Ascent and Descent


Purdue School of Agriculture undergraduate enrollment increased by 1,901 students from 1967-1977. Then, it decreased by 2,138 students from 1977-1987.

It happened.

photo of many students closely packed in study cubicles, 1977.

Students in study cubicles, 1977. From e-Archives, Debris Yearbook. Purdue University Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University Libraries.


The Ascent

Here are the numbers for the Ascent.

1967 Enrollment Total:   1,892

Freshmen enrollment: 509

Males: 1,757

Females: 135

1972 Enrollment Total:   2,576

Freshmen enrollment: 759

Males: 2,172

Females: 404

1977 Enrollment Total:   3,793

Freshmen enrollment: 937

Males: 2,640

Females: 1,153


Enrollment growth in the early 1970s was especially impacted by student interest in veterinary medicine and in environment and natural resources — sparked by “Earth Day” in 1970. Beginning students’ choices of majors showed that interest.

1973 Freshmen Enrollment Total:   756

Pre-Veterinary Medicine: 336

Forestry and Wildlife: 103

23 other Agriculture plans of study: 317

1974 Freshmen Enrollment Total:   885

Pre-Veterinary Medicine: 372

Forestry and Wildlife: 130

23 other Agriculture plans of study: 383


The Descent

Here are the numbers for the Descent, when enrollment declined 56 percent from 1977 to 1987.

1982 Enrollment Total:   2,748

Freshmen enrollment : 648

Males: 1,863

Females: 885

1987 Enrollment Total:   1,655

Freshmen enrollment: 306

Males: 1,124

Females: 531


In the late 1970s and early 1980s, graduates faced a tough job market. These factors contributed to the enrollment decrease:

  • There were far more applicants than could be admitted to colleges of veterinary medicine.
  • The employment market for environmental and natural resources graduates was more than saturated.
  • The American agricultural economy experienced a very severe recession in the early 1980s.

Of the 306 freshmen enrolled in the 1987 fall semester, 81 were in pre-veterinary medicine and 45 in forestry and wildlife, relatively fewer than in earlier years.

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