Enrollment in 1765 consisted of one student, William Rogers from Newport, who entered on the third of September, one day before the second annual meeting of the Corporation. No other student enrolled until June 20, 1766, when Richard Stites, young brother-in-law of President Manning, became the second student. A “matriculation roll” in the hand of James Manning lists 29 students who arrived between 1765 and 1769. Of these, eleven were from Rhode Island, eight from Massachusetts, four from New Jersey, three from Connecticut, two from Pennsylvania, and one from New York. In 1770 there were twenty students and by 1775 enrollment had increased to 41. The College was closed from 1776 to 1782. After the Revolution, students were in short supply. In 1783 there were only twelve, but then there began a steady growth to 23 in 1784, 68 in 1789, 83 in 1793, and 100 in 1798. The first printed Catalogue of the Officers and Students in 1800 listed the names and abodes of 107 students, of whom 74 were from Massachusetts, 22 from Rhode Island, four from South Carolina, four from Connecticut, two from Virginia, and one from New York. The 152 students, fifty of them freshmen, who enrolled in 1821, called for the building of a new dormitory, and Hope College was built the following year. Enrollment fluctuated from 98 in 1828, to 196 in 1836, back down to 140 in 1845. In 1851 there were 225 students, including 55 in the select course and three resident graduates. The total enrollment in 1890 was 352 from 25 states and three foreign countries. There were 196 from Rhode Island. By 1901, counting 176 women students and 94 graduate students the number had risen to 920.
At the end of the 1920s, when the student body had increased to over 2000, there was still some concern by alumni that students from Providence were going elsewhere. The Brown Alumni Monthly felt that the university administration “ought to have a definite and vigorous program for holding on to these young men. Something could be done by personal contact with them and with their parents, especially where the latter are either Brown men or women. ... It will be a fortunate day for the university when the current that has set away from us is checked and boys are cured of the notion that the one chief advantage of a college education is to secure it away from home.”
After the second World War the restriction on the size of the University set by “The Policy in Force” in 1929 (1200 undergraduate men, 500 undergraduate women, 300 graduate students) was removed by the Corporation and, while no new limits were set, there was a general understanding that the number of students in the College would be about 2,000 and the number in Pembroke College would be between 750 and 800. The demand for higher education after the war brought 822 students into the freshman class in the fall of 1946. Of this number 489 were veterans and 333 non-veterans. They came from 36 states and seven foreign countries and ranged in age from 16 to 32. There was not enough room in Sayles Hall (capacity 1,000) to accommodate all the students at the opening convocation that year. Several hundred heard the speeches amplified outside. President Wriston pointed out in his speech that, with 4,000 applications for admission rejected that year, there were students eager and ready to step into the place of any student who dropped out. Therefore, he announced, there would be no second chances, and “no student will be readmitted to Brown University who has once been dropped ... with today’s pressures, one chance is all a student can fairly ask; if he does not make good use of that he cannot demand a further opportunity.” The next year there were 3,557 men enrolled, including those in the Veterans College. In the first semester of 1948-40 there were 3,261 undergraduate men with the veterans absorbed into the College, and 906 women at Pembroke College. After the veterans had graduated, the male enrollment dropped to 2,077 in 1951. In 1974 the report of the Committee on Plans and Resources recommended that undergraduate registration be limited to 5,150. In 1972 the total enrollment topped 6,000 with 4,879 undergraduates, 40 percent of them women, and 1,357 graduate students. In 1978 for the first time there were more women than men in the freshman class. In September 1991 there were 5,864 undergraduates, 3,009 men and 2,855 women, almost evenly divided among the four classes, and 816 men and 563 women in the Graduate School.