K-State sees first enrollment decline in nine years

Clayton Bott, senior in agronomy, walks with Seth Tracy, senior in agronomy, to the student union on Sept. 30, 2015. With enrollment numbers dropping, K-State still shows improvement in other areas such as an increase in the freshman to sophomore rentention rate. (Cassandra Nguyen | The Collegian)

Universities across the state of Kansas are reporting a drop in student enrollment numbers this year, including K-State, which saw its first enrollment decrease in nine years. K-State officials are attributing this decline to tougher admission standards set by the Kansas Board of Regents that went into effect this summer for all state universities.

These standards are a set of 16 different pre-college curriculum credit requirements that students must meet before they can be considered eligible for admission in addition to the required GPA and ACT scores, according to Pat Bosco, vice president of Student Life. The curriculum includes four approved units of English courses and three approved units each of natural science, math, social science and elective courses.

“We want to maintain our rich land-grant tradition of opportunity and attainment, but we also have to recognize if a student is going to be successful here and what we can do to support a student that would like to wear the purple but isn’t quite academically prepared,” Bosco said.

K-State’s enrollment fell by 2.5 percent, or 620 students, according to the Kansas Board of Regents report detailing the official census. There are more than 24,000 students still on campus and many have not noticed the decrease.

“So far, our tour numbers are pretty similar to last year’s,” Scott LaMunyon, New Student Services member and junior in psychology, said. “Before this year, our enrollment numbers were bigger than they had been for at least two years in a row, which might contribute to making this year’s class look smaller when it’s compared to the recent growth.”

Only two state universities in Kansas recorded an increase in student enrollment. Fort Hays State University increased by 2.8 percent and the University of Kansas increased by 0.39 percent, according to the Board of Regents report.

Erinn Barcomb-Peterson, director of news and media relations at the University of Kansas, said that Kansas is supporting their numbers by improving as the student body grows.

“The student-to-faculty ratio has dropped from 20-to-1 in 2010 to just 16-to-1 in 2014,” Barcomb-Peterson said. “KU opened two freshmen residence halls this fall and also added 71 student parking stalls for this academic year.”

The Kansas Board of Regents report shows that overall enrollment at state universities has dropped by about 1 percent and enrollment at state community colleges dropped by 2.9 percent.

“Enrollment at community colleges in particular waxes and wanes with the economy,” Barcomb-Peterson said. “As the economy recovers, it is not surprising to see community college enrollment slow, and having fewer students in community college narrows the pipeline of students transferring to a four-year institution like KU.”

Despite the enrollment drop, K-State showed improvement in other areas. The university saw an increase in the freshmen to sophomore retention rate, moving from 79 percent retention to 83 percent, according to Bosco. The 2015 average ACT score for freshmen was a 24.9, which is the highest composite score in school history.

“We’ve done exceptionally well attracting the very best and brightest in our state, but there’s a balance between attracting these very bright students while also being responsive to students that have the grit and desire to become a member of the K-State family that need a little support,” Bosco said. “We don’t want to give up on that student. That’s what makes K-State a family and a great place to be.”