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Students pass between classes Sept. 6 on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln main campus.

Eric Gregory, Lincoln Journal Star

LINCOLN — The University of Nebraska-Lincoln topped 26,000 students for the first time in school history this fall, notching record enrollment for the third straight year.

The university said Wednesday that 26,079 undergraduate and graduate students are enrolled this year. That's a 1 percent increase over last year's enrollment of 25,897 on the sixth day of classes.

Chancellor Ronnie Green attributed the growth -- UNL has grown by 11 percent over the last decade -- to superior programs, exceptional faculty and an ability to prepare students for successful careers.

"I have often said that our university is the DNA of the state and an increasingly essential gateway to a more successful, more prosperous Nebraska," Green said. "When there is positive enrollment news for the university, it is also positive news for our state."

Other highlights from the 2017 enrollment report:

• Once again, the largest freshman class at UNL is driving overall growth. This year's 4,905 first-year students surpass last year's class of 4,860 students.

• The number of Nebraska students attending UNL, both in undergraduate and graduate courses, is 17,597.

• UNL is also boasting its most diverse population in school history. Minorities make up more than 15 percent of the total undergraduate population -- a total of 3,173 students.

Across its four campuses and the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture, NU grew by 0.3 percent this year to 52,516 -- a new record -- even as the total undergraduate student population dipped slightly.

The University of Nebraska Medical Center set another enrollment record for the 17th straight year, topping 3,908 students, despite a 1.8 percent drop in its undergraduate enrollment from last year. The number of graduate students offset the loss, however, rising more than 7 percent this year.

The University of Nebraska at Omaha also grew this year to 15,731 students total, driven by its largest-ever incoming freshman class. UNO's incoming class is the most diverse in school history: one-third are minorities, while 44 percent are the first in their families to go to college.

Enrollment dropped by 2.1 percent at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, as well as at NCTA by 7.3 percent.

UNK recorded 6,644 students on campus this fall, but its undergraduate population includes 213 fewer students than last year and its graduate student population sunk 10 percent.

The technical agriculture college in Curtis enrolled 317 students.

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