(WHTM) — Overall enrollment in Pennsylvania universities is down, but there is a silver lining. Enrollment of first-time students at universities across the state grew by 7%, according to PASSHE, which says it’s the largest increase in freshmen the system has seen in a long time.

Shippensburg University recently reported an increase in first-time college students, following that trend.

“This last weekend we had an open house. It’s been the largest numbers that we’ve seen even pre-pandemic,” said Megan Luft, executive director of admissions at Shippensburg University. “We saw people applying on-site and getting instant decisions and even committing to Shippensburg.”

However, the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) says enrollment fell by almost 5% this fall compared to last year. 

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“We’ve been seeing a lot of students not ready for college, combating with the warehouses out there offering students the ability to go to work and getting a higher salary in years, and there’s also confusion on college loans,” Luft said.

PASSHE says flat tuition and an increase in financial aid are helping to attract new students. Shippensburg University is banking on its programs.

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“Our education programs are still highly sought after. We are one of three schools in the country that have a lab school that has pre-k through 5th on campus, so students are doing the experimental learning here with us,” Luft added. 

PASSHE officials say it’s not all doom and gloom; instead, it sees signs of stabilization after years of decline.