For the sixth consecutive year, spring enrollment at Kansas State dropped, according to numbers released online by the registrar’s office.
Across K-State’s campuses statewide, the university reported an undergraduate and graduate headcount of 20,799 total students, compared to the same statistic of 21,400 last year. That’s a drop of 601 students, or a 2.8 percent decrease.
Full-time equivalency, another measure used by the university and the Kansas Board of Regents that divides total undergraduate credit hours by 15 credit hours and total graduate credit hours by 12 credit hours, also fell from 18,881 FTE last year to 17,613 FTE this year, or a drop of 1,268 and 6.72 percent decrease.
Provost Charles Taber said although enrollment has continued to decline, it’s important to put the figures in context.
“First, it is important to understand that spring numbers are always down from the fall numbers,” Taber said by email. “We continue to be affected by the smaller entering classes from the past several years as those classes move through the system. The spring numbers were predicted. Longer term, we are working to increase the number of entering freshman, transfers, graduate and non-traditional students across all campuses.”
At K-State’s Manhattan campus, the undergraduate headcount fell from 15,615 students to 14,954 (decrease of 661 students, or -4.23 percent), compared to the graduate headcount, which saw a more modest decrease of 20 students from 2,397 last year to 2,377 this year (-0.83 percent).
Undergraduate enrollment at the College of Veterinary Medicine, counted separately in K-State’s figures, grew by four students from 454 last year to 458 this year.
The hardest hit college was the College of Arts and Sciences, which saw a decrease of 330 students across its undergraduate and graduate headcount numbers to 4,968 this spring (6.2 percent decrease). Only the College of Architecture, Planning and Design saw an increase — 22 students to a total undergraduate and graduate headcount of 672.
Across the state, high school students have weighed options other than college more heavily, and increasing college tuition has been a factor in some high school students’ decisions to not go on to college.
In February, President Richard Myers told the Rotary Club of Topeka that with decreasing state aid, state universities, including K-State, have had to rely more on increased tuition to fund university operations, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported. He said universities are risking pricing out students.
In late 2017, K-State announced it had hired Huron Consulting Services LLC to help craft a new approach for K-State to take toward enrollment, and in his 2018 State of the University address, President Richard Myers announced that the university and the consulting agency had completed a comprehensive enrollment strategy.
“Huron Consulting has been advising us for the past year and we are implementing many important changes in the strategic enrollment project, based on data, analysis and experience that they bring,” Taber said. “Changing enrollment numbers at a large university is a slow process and it will take time for these new approaches to have the significant impact that we expect.”
In reflecting on the spring figures, Taber said there are a few areas of concern to the university.
“We are concerned about the downturn in in-state high school graduates going on to college,” Taber said. “We are concerned about the drop in transfer students, and the drop in international students. We also continue to work on recruiting students from under-represented groups.”
On the other hand, there have been a few bright areas in the enrollment numbers for K-State, Taber said.
“We are seeing promising increases in out of state applications and are working to bring those applicants to K-State,” Taber said. “It is also important to understand that our success in improving graduation rates is a significant success, though it contributes to the drop in enrollment we have been seeing. These student success improvements will make us more competitive for new students.”
A full list of the K-State enrollment statistics is available here.