‘We’ve got to do better’ on enrollment, Wichita State president says

Wichita State University president John Bardo spoke Friday of a need to push up enrollment numbers by increasing retention and recruitment.
Wichita State University president John Bardo spoke Friday of a need to push up enrollment numbers by increasing retention and recruitment. File photo

Enrollment is going to be a challenge at Wichita State University this fall, president John Bardo told hundreds of faculty and staff members Friday during convocation.

“We’ve got to increase enrollment,” Bardo said. “This year we’re going to struggle with it. That’s OK.

“We have to do a better job of retaining students, and we have to do a better job of recruiting and, at the graduate level, we have to be aggressive at (recruiting) them.”

On Monday, a report from WSU’s Office of Planning and Analysis showed the university’s head count was down by 392 students from this time last year. It projects that the university will be down 430 students by the 20th day of classes.

The same report projects that the total number of student credit hours taken will be slightly less than last year by the 20th day of classes, or fall census. That is when WSU formally measures its numbers.

The number of students has hovered around 15,000 for several years. It hit 15,003 last fall.

This fall, WSU will probably be where it was last year in enrollment numbers, Bardo said.

Of several university priorities Bardo presented to faculty and staff members, he gave enrollment a mock grade of “I” for “incomplete.”

“It doesn’t have to turn into an ‘F,’ ” he said.

“We are doing better at getting people to be admitted. Once they get admitted, we still don’t quite know how to land it. So it’s not the fact that they’re not coming to us, it’s not the fact that we’re not admitting them. We still haven’t quite figured out how to land them. And we can do that.”

University data show that applications to the university increased 63 percent to 10,056 from 2013 to 2014. Admissions also increased for undergraduates.

But those increases haven’t yet led to a greater number of students enrolling overall.

Since taking over as WSU president in 2012, Bardo has repeatedly emphasized increased head count as a goal and has said he wants to reach 22,000 students.

On Friday, he said that’s still the goal. But it’s hard to tell how soon that could happen, he added.

“We’re moving from a culture of stability where people didn’t believe they could grow and therefore they didn’t really aim that way,” Bardo said, and now the university is pushing for a culture of enrollment and growth.

“Shifting a culture to where it’s really responsive to this model takes some time. I think we’re making good progress in it. Will we see it in numbers next year? Probably a little bit. But I expect as we develop this culture and people get to understand more about it, you’ll start seeing it pick up.”

He referenced added resources that the university has implemented to help boost enrollment.

The Eagle reported last month that WSU has spent more than $2 million on an out-of-state recruitment firm and lists of student names since 2013 to boost enrollment numbers. Bardo refused interview requests for that article.

At the convocation Friday, he told faculty and staff members that the university has good leadership in admissions.

In order to boost numbers, the university still needs to work on marketing its distance education and graduate programs and broadening its international base, Bardo said.

“There’s a lot of work to be done,” he said.

Reach Kelsey Ryan at 316-269-6752 or Follow her on Twitter: @kelsey_ryan.