As Fall Semester Approaches, USM Universities Look Forward to In-Person Instruction and a Safe Return to Campus

Health and Safety Protocols in Place as 10-Year Enrollment Goals Stay on Track

Baltimore, Md. (Aug. 23, 2021) – Students, faculty, and staff at University System of Maryland (USM) institutions are poised to embrace a return to campus this fall. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, the USM community has drawn on its collective strength, planning, flexibility, and grit in combatting the virus. With the fall semester beginning at most of its universities on Aug. 30, the USM is planning for a safe and responsible return to the in-person access that is so much a part of the higher education experience.

“I can’t wait for the fall semester, and what it means for the USM community. Of course, we’ll have to monitor COVID conditions and implement safety protocols, but having our students living and learning on campus will rekindle the energy—the sense of connection—that’s so essential to the college experience,” said USM Chancellor Jay A. Perman. “I know our students have missed that, and so have our faculty and staff. I’ve been chancellor nearly two years, and it’s the first time I’ll see our universities begin the fall semester with the activity and excitement of a traditional school year. So we’re all ready for it.”

The USM has made the health and safety of its community members the top priority in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Last April, after consulting with USM presidents, Chancellor Perman issued a COVID vaccination mandate for students, faculty, and staff. In response, each university developed specific protocols and guidance that it communicated to its campus community during the spring and summer regarding vaccine documentation, exemption requests, and protocols that unvaccinated members of its community must follow. Throughout the coming semester, USM institutions will assess current conditions and update safety requirements as needed.  These may include mandatory indoor masking, limited capacity at certain events, symptom checks for campus visitors, and other measures.

Though final data will not be available before October, preliminary USM estimates indicate that enrollment remains consistent with previous years—this even though many in higher education expected a nationwide enrollment dip because of the pandemic. Bucking those expectations, current estimates have the USM positioned to remain on a 10-year trajectory for steady enrollment growth.

According to the USM Office of Institutional Research, total Fall 2021 enrollment across all 12 system universities and three regional academic centers is expected to be around 169,000—about the same as last fall.  Undergraduates will represent just under 80 percent of that total—and some 13,000 are expected to enroll as first-time/full-time freshmen.   

Between now and 2030, the USM expects a gradual return to steady enrollment growth, expanding from current levels to an estimated 181,877 in 2030—an increase of 7.4 percent.

Students of color continue to make up the majority (58 percent) of both graduate and undergraduate students enrolled across the system. For the Fall of 2021, an estimated 57 percent of undergraduates will identify as non-white, or as non-U.S. citizens, based on historical enrollment trends.  This diversity is no accident. Over the past several years, the system has intensified efforts to ensure that a USM education is accessible to all, regardless of race, ethnicity, or national origin.

Among other trends in the USM Fall 2021 data estimates:
Enrollment by Major: Nearly 40,000 undergraduates in Fall 2021 are STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) majors. Another 10,000 students are majoring in the health professions.

Enrollment by Gender: The breakdown between female and male students enrolled across the USM has remained consistent in recent years, with women making up an estimated 52 percent of total enrollment.

Enrollment by Region: Fall 2021 statewide enrollment is expected to mirror Fall 2020, when students from central Maryland counties—Montgomery, Howard, Prince George’s, Anne Arundel, Baltimore County, and Baltimore City—represented most undergraduates attending USM institutions. Some 84,000 students came from these counties. Next come students from western Maryland—Garrett, Allegany, Washington, and Frederick counties—at 5,805. From Southern Maryland, the counties of Calvert, Charles, and St. Mary’s totaled 5,141. And, finally, the lower Eastern Shore—Dorchester, Wicomico, Somerset, and Worcester counties—had 2,479 students.

Official and finalized enrollment data on each Maryland county for Fall 2020 is here.

In-State vs. Out-of-State Enrollment: The system continues its proud tradition of serving students in Maryland. An expected 80 percent of undergraduates systemwide will come from in-state.

The latest enrollment figures (Fall 2020) for out-of-state students (both undergraduate and graduate) show that the Mid-Atlantic states of New York (9,354), Virginia (5,998), New Jersey (3,889)—and California (8,087)—continued to be significant feeders for USM institutions, with other students hailing from states such as Hawaii (610), Alaska (137), and Washington state (711). It is anticipated that representation from these states will be at similar levels this year.

Graduation/Completion/Retention Rates:  According to USM Institutional Research, the USM in May 2021 awarded more than 40,000 degrees for the fifth straight year. Nearly 80 percent of all undergraduate degrees awarded in Maryland came from USM institutions. Details on the Class of ’21 Commencement are

The most recent cohort graduation rate of first-time, full-time USM freshmen (who entered in Fall 2014) was 72 percent—an all-time high for the USM, and significantly higher than the national average of 62 percent.  USM retention rates also remained high—some 87 percent of USM freshmen who entered in fall 2019 returned for their sophomore year.

A Full Year of On-Campus Life for Several New Leaders: The start of the 2021-2022 academic year also marks the first time that several USM institutional leaders will overseeing their first traditional, in-person fall semester on campus.  

Two of these leaders are presidents whose appointments were announced during the prior 2019-20 academic year: UMCP President Darryll Pines (appointment effective July 1, 2020) and Coppin State President Anthony Jenkins (appointment effective May 26, 2020).

The other leaders are UMB President Bruce Jarrell; University of Maryland Global Campus President Gregory Fowler; Universities at Shady Grove Executive Director Anne Khademian; and University System of Maryland at Southern Maryland Executive Director Eileen Abel.

The USM comprises 12 institutions: Bowie State University; Coppin State University; Frostburg State University; Salisbury University; Towson University; the University of Baltimore; the University of Maryland, Baltimore; the University of Maryland, Baltimore County; the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science; the University of Maryland, College Park; the University of Maryland Eastern Shore; and the University of Maryland Global Campus. The USM also includes three regional centers—the Universities at Shady Grove, the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown, and the University System of Maryland at Southern Maryland—at which USM universities offer upper-division undergraduate and graduate courses.

Systemwide, student enrollment was 170,180 in 2020-21. The USM and its institutions compete successfully nearly $1.5 billion in external grants and contracts annually. USM institutions and programs are among the nation's best in quality and value according to several national rankings. To learn more about the University System of Maryland, visit


Contact: Mike Lurie
Phone: 301.445.2719