Declining enrollment impacts university

(Graphic by Audrey Hockersmith)

Kansas State’s smaller class sizes may be a draw for many students looking to attend the university, but there may be more than one reason why there are not as many students in the seats.

The university’s 20th-day enrollment numbers from the Office of the Registrar’s website showed that 23,779 students enrolled in the university, including distance education through Global Campus and the three on-campus locations, Manhattan, Olathe and Polytechnic in Salina.

The fall 2016 enrollment is a decrease from fall 2015 enrollment numbers, which totaled 24,146 students. This is the second year in a row the university has seen a decrease in enrollment numbers.

“Obviously, a decrease in enrollment is not what we’re looking for, but I don’t think it will hinder us in any major way,” Jessica Van Ranken, student body president and senior in political science, said. “We’re seeing good stats from the numbers and we’re seeing great things from the freshman class.”

Losing 367 students from fall 2015, K-State had the largest decrease in students among the six state universities. Those six universities include: Emporia State, Fort Hays State, K-State, Pittsburg State, the University of Kansas and Wichita State. However, due to the size of K-State, the percent of students lost only totals 1.52 percent.

Delving into the 23,779 students enrolled, there is an increased number of multicultural students, sitting at 3,651. Van Ranken and Trenton Kennedy, student body vice president and junior in entrepreneurship, ran a platform this past spring on increasing diversity awareness on campus. Van Ranken said she sees the increase in multicultural students as a positive for the university.

“It’s great that we’re becoming increasingly diverse,” she said. “There’s an ever-present need to respond to the community. The increased enrollment means there is a need to serve our diverse community in many different ways like fundraising for the new multicultural student center, providing need-based scholarships and having cultural competency courses available to students.”

Global Campus enrollment numbers were similar to last year, according to a press release from the university, totaling 2,131 students. In-state student enrollment also stayed near the same as in the past.

“While this is great K-State news for the new student domestic market, particularly when fewer Kansas high school students are going on to any kind of education after high school,” Pat Bosco, vice president of student life, said. “It’s kinda sad that the increased cost of higher education seems to be discouraging Kansan students and families.”

According to information provided by the Kansas Board of Regents, the overall change in students attending the six major state universities increased by 21 students.

Overall, on the 20th day of classes, there were 182,690 students enrolled in state universities, community or technical colleges in Kansas, a 589 person, or 0.32 percent, increase from 2015.

For students at K-State, that 1.5 percent decrease in students could create more change. The university has had budget cuts from the state over the past few years, with changes this year including a decrease in Hale Library’s hours and increased tuition rates of 5.81 percent. Without the tuition and fees paid by more students, the decrease could lead to more cuts.

“I project we will continue to hold our own, in and out of state (students), domestically with traditional freshmen, respond positively by increasing our efforts to meet the competition for international students and hopefully find a way to begin a need-based scholarship program to help our upper class students who are leaving the university with good grades but are running out of financial support,” Bosco said.

Van Ranken said that at this time, she had no knowledge of any direct budget cuts due to enrollment.