Teacher with students

Whether it’s the lure of the Lynx or the magic of the Mile High City, new students are sensing the attraction of the University of Colorado Denver and applying in droves.

A USA Today survey of 600 institutions across the country placed CU Denver No. 8 in a top-100 list for application growth, citing a 126-percent increase during a five-year period.

“As a campus, we’ve made a lot of strides in getting on people’s radar,” said Undergraduate Admissions Director Catherine Wilson. “It’s nice to know CU Denver is on the map.”

First-year students form a CU
First-year-student numbers broke the previous year’s record for the fall 2018 semester for the sixth consecutive year. The urban campus offers a number of benefits that appeal to today’s students, admissions experts say.

Engaging students: the ‘reason we are here’

For the sixth straight year, the university enrolled a record number of first-year students (1,716), welcoming 15,232 total students to campus in fall 2018.

“I think it speaks volumes of the hard work that’s been done in engaging prospective students and their families in the CU Denver community,” said Associate Vice Chancellor for Access and Enrollment Genia Herndon. “It’s truly the whole reason we are here.”

CU Denver’s flexibility coupled with its booming urban home are chief factors behind its appeal, the admissions officials said.

Flexibly fitting students’ lifestyles

“Our students have a lot going on,” Wilson said. “They tend to work outside of going to school. They have families and responsibilities. So, what they like about CU Denver is that it fits into their lives versus having to disrupt their lives. It’s the flexibility.”

Through online course offerings, students can choose from more than 50 degrees and certificates available, including night and weekend classes. CU Online was recently ranked No. 3 in the state for 2019’s best online colleges by the Guide to Online Schools.

Denver’s growth, now topping 700,000 residents, has also contributed to a swell in applications, with many students looking to their “hometown” university for financial reasons, Wilson said. “Students like the ability to live at home and save that expense.”

“It’s nice to know CU Denver is on the map.” – Catherine Wilson, director of undergraduate admissions

Advantages transcend classroom walls

A continually expanding transportation system also attracts Lynx, Wilson said.

“Most of them come without cars, so the RTD EcoPass that’s included in their fees is huge,” she said. “Also, the development of the Light Rail (and A Line) and expanded bus options (such as the Flatiron Flyer) have been big for us.”

Set in the Mile High City, CU Denver offers advantages beyond its classroom walls. “I think that being in an urban location is very attractive to students,” Herndon said. “The connection that we have to their future career is right across the street.”

View of city from big window
A window in the Lola & Rob Salazar Student Wellness Center frames the city. Having the campus in the midst of one of the nation’s most-thriving cities is a primary draw for many students, admissions experts say.

City home propels student careers

Whether it’s restaurant jobs for getting through college, internships with top companies and industry experts, or career opportunities after they attain their degrees, the Denver area offers students high employment potential.

“Many of today’s students are very savvy and sophisticated about how they are spending their time,” Herndon said. “So our connection to those internships, careers and undergraduate research opportunities are attractive.”

The value of having the city for a campus cannot be overplayed, Herndon said. “Things are happening in this city, and I think students want to be a part of that.”

Students explain the urban advantage

Student Sara Trujillo
Sara Trujillo


Pursuing: A bachelor’s degree in Public Health

Hails from: Aurora, Colo.

“I received a good financial-aid package, and I get to stay at home. Being close to my family allows me to save money. I’ve also done two online classes, and they were good, very organized and convenient.”


Student Aditya Sonar
Aditya Sonar


Pursuing: A master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering

Hails from: Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

“I was admitted to five universities, but comparing everything – the culture, the lifestyle and the industry – I chose this university. I wanted to specialize in renewable and clean energy, and Colorado is one of the fastest-growing states in the United States for renewable and clean energy.”

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