While on-campus enrollment at Fort Hays State University continues a downward trend, university officials noted successes among the mosaic of figures released Wednesday that contributed to FHSU once again scoring record overall enrollment for the fall semester.
The Kansas Board of Regents released official enrollment numbers for state institutions Wednesday, noting a slight decrease overall statewide.
Bucking the state and national trends, FHSU saw an increase of 2.4% over last year on its overall enrollment.
With a headcount of 15,908 students, FHSU has the fourth-largest enrollment among the eight state universities thanks to its Virtual College and international partnerships.
“Nineteen consecutive years of enrollment growth is not a coincidence,” FHSU President Tisa Mason said in a news release. “It is a result of hard work and creativity in designing educational programs that meet the needs of students — programs that will provide them with the foundation of success in their chosen careers.”
On-campus enrollment is 4,486, down from 4,511 last year. It’s a 6.5% decrease from five years ago.
However, enrollment in the Virtual College and among FHSU’s international partner universities continues to climb. Those enrollments for 2019 total 11,422, up more than 2% from last year, and a 26% increase from five years ago.
Catering to the needs of adult learners through the Virtual College is one of the university’s strengths, FHSU chief communications officer Scott Cason told The Hays Daily News on Thursday.
“The age of college students is skewing into the mid- or late 20s now, which means more people with families and jobs that have additional requirements on them,” he said.
“In the Virtual College especially, we have a great set of options that adult learners can pursue,” he said.
He cited the No. 5 ranking of FHSU by Washington Monthly magazine on its 2019 best four-year colleges for adult learners. The magazine noted 31% of FHSU students are over age 25 and the 75% graduation rate for part-time students.
“This is a ranking that really looks at how we serve this new emerging trend of adult learners. That means we’re in the right place with learning modalities for the modern learner,” Cason said.
Another success area is in retention of freshman students from one year to the next.
According to U.S. News and World Report, the national average retention rate for four-year public institutions is about 71%. That’s where FHSU was from 2014 to 2017, according to the publication.
“Our goal was 75% and we thought that was a stretch goal for us,” Cason said. “We’re at 76%, which means our programming is right and our pricing is right, two big things that cause prospective students to question whether they want to stay in college or not."