The University of Wisconsin System has seen its highest new student enrollment since 2018, before the COVID-19 pandemic, at its main campuses this year, but overall enrollment has dropped 1% compared to last year, according to data released Thursday.

Preliminary estimates based on the first day of classes show 26,442 first-year students, including freshmen and first-year transfers, enrolled this fall compared to 25,869 in fall 2021 and 25,602 in fall 2018, according to the System.

Overall enrollment dropped 1%, or about 1,500 students, from 162,980 in 2021 to 161,430 in 2022, according to the estimates. This result was expected after the pandemic affected two years of enrollment, UW System spokesperson Mark Pitsch said in a statement.

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