For Alesha Stroh, enrolling at Fort Hays State University last fall was about being part of a smaller university.
“I wanted to go somewhere small but close to home,” said Stroh, a Maize South graduate.
Other students in Sedgwick County apparently feel the same.
The fall 2012 semester marked the largest enrollment of Sedgwick County students Fort Hays State has ever seen. In 2008, 45 Sedgwick County freshmen enrolled at the school; last fall, 91 were enrolled.
That is among the growth trends that has increased Fort Hays State’s enrollment annually over the past several years.
“We have been almost unbelievably successful in our enrollment group,” said Kent Steward, director of university relations. “We set a new enrollment record for every year.”
This year, Fort Hays State has more than 13,000 students, including nearly 5,000 on its Hays campus. About 3,500 students take classes overseas, where the school has partnered with universities in China.
“We were, for a five-year period that ended in 2010, the fourth-fastest-growing university in the nation,” Steward said, and he expects that probably is true now.
While Ellis County is Fort Hays State’s leading feeder area, Sedgwick County ranks second.
“We have just found that the students that come from Sedgwick County fit in so well,” said Tricia Cline, the school’s director of admissions. “They didn’t know who we were or where we’re located; they just didn’t realize that we were out here.”
Most high school seniors find out what Fort Hays has to offer by word of mouth, Cline said. But other techniques – such as visits to Sedgwick County high schools, banquets with students and presentations designed especially for guidance counselors – also help attract students from the Wichita area.
Cline and other staff and faculty members are traveling to Wichita on Sunday for a dessert banquet along with President Edward Hammond. The annual event – at 1:30 p.m. at the Wichita Marriott – has been held for the past 20 years, but the number of juniors and seniors high school students attending has been increasing dramatically. For more information on the Wichita event, go to www.fhsu.edu/admissions/srp.
Campus visits take high school juniors and seniors nearly 180 miles away from home on a bus to explore the Fort Hays campus, the first visit for many of them. And the return rate is good, Cline said.
Although she’s only in her second semester, Stroh said she already is a Fort Hays State Tiger at heart.
“I love it,” she said. “The environment is small, so you know so many people and you know what’s going on. If you miss a class or don’t understand something, someone is always there to help.
“It’s more close-knit and almost family-oriented, which is how my high school has been,” she said.
Steward said the school takes pride in its small class sizes.
“We don’t have classes of 1,000 or 500, or even 200,” he said. “We purposefully don’t build class sizes that big.
“Fort Hays may not be the first place people think of, but the quality is high.”