The official fall enrollment figures at the various Kansas Board of Regents institutions are watched closely by a lot of stakeholders. We like to dissect the numbers to see what effect affordable success at Fort Hays State University has on the statewide picture.
While we realize statistics can be manipulated to back up whatever story one wants to tell, we would offer this: Without FHSU, the Regents would be unable to boast of any enrollment growth this year.
When figures were released after the official 20th day of the semester, the Board of Regents revealed a systemwide increase of 458 students. Without FHSU's 508 new students, the Regents' report would have been about decreased enrollment. Folks in Manhattan, of course, could make the same case about Kansas State University's 515 increase. But other than that Big 12, Division 1 school, nobody else besides Fort Hays State could claim they're making the Regents look good this year.
In fact, the only other university that could even claim an increase was Pittsburg State with 14 new students. The University of Kansas was down 779, Wichita State was down 202, Emporia State 109 and Washburn 44. Overall, university enrollment was down 152.
It was the same story with the 19 community colleges in the system. They posted a collective 150-student decrease.
Technical colleges, on the other hand, boosted numbers by 705, including 88 at Northwest Kansas Technical College. Were it not for this category, the Regents' fall numbers would have been abysmal.
But we harken back to Fort Hays State University as the shining star in the system. And even for the Tiger community, the numbers were a little off when put in the context of the goal President Edward Hammond has in place. In order to hit 20,000 students by 2020, the university needs to add approximately 1,000 students each year. Last year, FHSU added 919. This year's 508 is about half of what it needed to keep on pace.
Still, the 13,310 students at Fort Hays set yet another all-time record.
"We had significant increases in two of our three delivery modalities, which are students on the Hays campus, students in our Virtual College and students at our partner universities in China," Hammond said Dr. Edward H. Hammond. "Both on-campus and virtual enrollments are up, and the China enrollment is down slightly."
* On-campus headcount is 4,746 students, up from 4,683;
* Virtual College is 4,975 students, up from 4,451;
* Partner universities in China is 3,589, down from 3,668.
With the Chinese government's decision to place caps on the number of individuals enrolling in the FHSU program, Hammond expects this modality to remain level moving forward. This will place greater emphasis on the university successfully recruiting even more college-bound people to Hays, whether online or on-campus.
Fort Hays State has a good start on both fronts.
"Local student growth continues to lay a solid foundation, with 52 percent of this year's Hays High School graduates and 44.5 percent of high school graduates from Ellis County enrolled at FHSU in fall 2012," Hammond said. "Also, 42.5 percent of the freshman class is from western Kansas. When the students who know us best decide to come, it demonstrates that we are providing what they need in terms of high-quality academic programs and close personal attention."
As success breeds success, we would anticipate Fort Hays State University will keep building on its record-setting momentum. We're confident the Kansas Board of Regents is counting on it as well.
Editorial by Patrick Lowry