‘Mixed results’ for enrollment at Kansas universities, colleges

Wichita State University campus
Wichita State University campus File photo

Fall enrollment figures were slightly down for most state universities and community colleges in Kansas, but notably up among technical colleges.

Wichita State and Fort Hays State had the largest increases. All six state universities and the state’s community and technical colleges reported their enrollment data to the Kansas Board of Regents following the 20th day of classes.

WSU reported a fall semester enrollment of 15,081 students. That’s an increase of 607 students, or 4.2 percent, from the fall 2016 semester.

The university touted the largest new first-time freshman class in school history.

“Our efforts are bearing fruit in recruiting high school seniors, under-represented minorities, students from the I-35 corridor beyond Kansas and online learners,” said WSU President John Bardo in a prepared statement. “Our journey continues with an additional focus on improving retention and degree completion.”

“We are seeing shifts in student credit hours (and) headcount ratios that reflect our location and the nature of a research university in an urban area,” he added.

Part of WSU’s increase is due to the 668 students it enrolled in the first two weeks of September in one-half credit undergraduate online courses and classes for senior citizens after waiving fees for some of them.

Total student credit hours increased about 0.5 percent from last fall, according to a university new release.

Boosts from online, senior courses

WSU says it experienced increases among students and professionals studying in short online courses known as “badges.”

“These courses allow students to learn new skills in shorter chunks of time, making it more manageable for someone who is already busy with a full-time job … or family,” according to a news release.

In late August and early September, WSU offered free enrollment for undergraduate-level badges and Life Long Learning courses for the elderly at senior centers if they enrolled before Sept. 15. That was just before the enrollment snapshot on the 20th day of classes.

The Eagle received enrollment information on badges and Lifelong Learning Courses from WSU on Friday through the Kansas Open Records Act.

On Sept. 1, the headcount for badges or Life Long Learning courses was 233. By Sept. 15, it had increased to 901.

That’s a 668 increase in headcount in two weeks.

WSU spokesman Joe Kleinsasser said badge courses and life learning courses, which are for-credit academic courses, count toward enrollment.

“(But) our ‘noncredit’ community education courses are not included in the enrollment count,” he said.

There was also a 38 percent increase in students from the Interstate 35 corridor of Oklahoma, Texas and Missouri through recruiting efforts, according to WSU’s news release. The university said it saw an increase in new undergraduate students from Sedgwick County and the surrounding area.

“We are encouraged about large increases in first-generation students and the positive effect that higher education can have on them,” said Rick Muma, the senior associate vice president for Academic Affairs and Strategic Enrollment Management. “The university community has really come together advancing our mission to be an essential educational and economic driver for the region.”

‘Mixed results across our system’

Enrollment in the six state universities slightly declined from last year’s numbers, according to a Kansas Board of Regents news release.

“Fall enrollment numbers are showing mixed results across our system,” said Regents President and CEO Blake Flanders.

Wichita State’s enrollment bump was the largest increase. Fort Hays State University and the University of Kansas saw enrollment increases of 3 percent and 0.2 percent, respectively.

Kansas State University, Pittsburg State University and Emporia State University saw enrollment decreases of 4.1 percent, 2.8 percent and 2.6 percent, respectively.

Washburn University, the state’s municipal university in Topeka, saw a 1.4 percent increase in enrollment.

Enrollment was down about 2 percent at the state’s community colleges. But enrollment increased across the state’s technical colleges by more than 12 percent.

Wichita Area Technical College saw an increase of 675 students over last fall, an increase of more than 18 percent. WATC reported record numbers last September too.

“We’re very excited about that,” said WATC President Sheree Utash. “We have a definite need in the city of Wichita for a very proficient, skilled technical workforce.”

Daniel Salazar: 316-269-6791, @imdanielsalazar