Three students wearing masks talk and laugh as they walk on campus

Sun Devils start spring semester strong

Arizona State University welcomes a record number of students back for the spring 2021 semester — including thousands who are studying at ASU for the first time.

Overall, approximately 122,000 students are enrolled for the spring semester, an increase of more than 7% over last January. ASU Online saw a 19% increase, and immersion (on-campus) enrollment has held steady with the previous semester with nearly 69,000 students enrolling in the Valley and throughout the state.

There are more new students beginning their ASU educational experiences today than in spring 2020. New campus immersion master's degree students in particular showed a big rise and now total over 1,000 students, a 111% increase. New campus immersion international master's degree students number more than 700 students for spring, a 208% increase. There are nearly 8% more first-year students starting their college journey this semester compared with last January, and new transfer students have increased 1.5% over this time last year.

Dhruv Chetankumar Shah is part of that group. The first-year graduate student had plans of joining ASU to study computer science in the fall, but the pandemic and the strict lockdowns imposed in his home country of India forced him to take pause. It never deterred him, though, from his ultimate goal: becoming a Sun Devil.

“I would like to attribute my decision of waiting primarily to the unprecedented times — or should I say, the chaos and confusion created by it,” Shah said. “Nonetheless, my decision of doing a master's in computer science at ASU, in particular, was solid like a rock. So, I chose to wait, hoping for things to improve and they did!”

He's not alone, as thousands of students near and far are choosing to begin their college journey and keep progressing toward their goals.

“The complexities facing students in 2020 required us to think creatively in order to offer the flexibility that students needed to start their journey at ASU, whenever and wherever they were ready and able,” said Executive Director of Admission Services Matt Lopez. “This approach resonated with many new students who could not join us earlier. Our recruitment and college engagement staffs communicated closely with these new and deferred admits throughout the fall, so that they knew that ASU was ready to welcome them this spring.”

As the pandemic continues, so does the university's continued dedication to the Community of Care. Face coverings, daily health checks and physical distancing are still the protocols and behaviors expected of the ASU community. This spring, ASU is increasing its required random COVID-19 testing to 25% of on-campus students and 25% of employees each week. Saliva-based COVID-19 testing remains available to all students and employees at no cost and is available on all campuses for anyone who wants or needs a test. Make a COVID-19 test appointment.

The spring semester will continue to meet learners where they are with multiple learning modalities, including in person at a reduced capacity and digital via ASU Sync and iCourses

Third-year psychology major Airam Sanchez from San Luis, Arizona, found ASU Sync — a technology-enhanced instruction introduced this fall that allows students to attend a live class either in person or via Zoom — to be a good solution.

“Fall semester was a challenge, but I was very satisfied and grateful that ASU Sync proved to be a great way to take my classes remotely,” Sanchez said. “Professors worked extra hard to adjust their classes for us and understood what we were all going through. Because of this, I was positive that enrolling for the spring 2021 semester would be a great experience as my fall 2020.”

To start the spring semester, the university offers hundreds of welcome events, from back-to-school bingo to study-skill sessions to student clubs and organizations. These are in addition to the resources available to students year-round, including — as Shah has discovered — the guidance and help of the International Students and Scholars Center. It was his first time traveling outside India, and the transportation provided to get international students from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport to accommodations was a great relief.

“That was very thoughtful of the administration,” he said. “... Really, this shows how much concerned the university is for the international students. And I really appreciate that. I find all the services at ASU very helpful; all people are so helpful.”

For many in the ASU community, the spring semester continues the learning they did over winter break with the first-ever Innovation Quarter, five weeks of free virtual programming covering topics from social justice to the zombie apocalypse to cookie decorating.

The sessions were open to the public as well, and they seized the opportunity. More than 4,500 unique registrants — including ASU students, K-12 families, alumni, community members, students from other universities as well as ASU staff and faculty — signed up for the nearly 200 learning opportunities provided by ASU staff and faculty. Most of those registrants signed up for multiple courses, for a total of nearly 11,000 session registrations.

Innovation Quarter is just another way the ASU community is keeping the learning going, despite the challenges presented by a pandemic.

“The ASU community truly showed its resilience in the past spring and fall semesters in compassionate and smart ways,” said Executive Vice President and University Provost Mark Searle.

“I'm proud of what our students, faculty and staff have accomplished and am confident in their continued ability to persevere as the new semester begins. “We have seen our students do incredible things during these challenging times. Our entire academic community at ASU is focused on helping them continue to thrive and succeed toward their goals.”

Top photo by Jarod Opperman/ASU