Faculty senate committee looks for causes for, solutions to decreased enrollment

The faculty senate committee wants to understand why enrollment numbers are down, as well as offer solutions. (Kaylie McLaughlin | Collegian Media Group)

Kansas State’s faculty senate Committee on University Planning met Thursday, March 4 to discuss reasons behind and solutions for decreased enrollment.

Karen Goos, vice provost for enrollment management, said with the state of decline the university has seen, freshman and sophomore class sizes will be low for at least the next four years.

She also said a large drop in those classes can be seen, with a 4 percent decrease in total credit hours.

“One of the things I really want to point out is that if you look at our 100 and 200 level classes, the decline in our freshman and sophomore classes is at 9 percent,” Goos said. “As I look at my overall projections of enrollment, we will be down for at least the next four years of enrollment because it is not likely that I can bring in a 10 percent or 11 percent increase in an undergraduate freshman class.”

K-State has seen a 35 percent decline in first-generation students over the last five years; a decline in credit hours in agriculture, arts and sciences and engineering; and a 2 percent decline in persistence rate from last fall alone.

The committee wants to acknowledge the issue.

“We want to understand it so we can assist with pawning our way out of it,” Daniel Ireton, FSCOUP co-chair, said. “Strategic enrollment management is under the vice provost, and any sort of planning which this would qualify would fall under shared governance guidelines — we just want to consult and insist on planning on that. That’s what we are for, to an extent.”

Both Goos and FSCOUP member and professor of English Tanya González discussed reasons why these issues are arising as of late during the meeting — with Goos crediting it to transfer pathway issues. Goos also said the decrease in enrollment isn’t because of lingering racial tension the campus has seen.

As for possible ways to fix the issue, González said she wouldn’t mind seeing more focused opportunities for students.

“It’s easier for an urban campus to have [more] internship opportunities like that,” González said, “but what if we focused around undergraduate research, and have every single undergraduate engage in some sort of practical research that’s revolved around the world’s lingering problems?”

Ireton said he feels like this is an issue the group will need to discuss in upcoming meetings — since all of the reasons why have not been pinpointed.

“There’s a lot of things happening, and part of this process is determining why and how we can turn it around. That’s something we are still working to determine,” Ireton said.

Goos said she thinks FSCOUP can help gain momentum for a movement to improve enrollment.

“One of the areas where I see and feel like we can gain some momentum — that is certainly outside of my scope — are those curriculum differentiators,” Goos said. “I think that is the biggest thing. … For example, whether we want to have a push where we create some expectation, not a requirement, just for promotion. … I think we have opportunity. I’m seeing some momentum and I’m also seeing where there’s not momentum. There may need to be some fires lit.”

FSCOUP will continue to target this issue during upcoming meetings. The committee meets on the first Thursday of every month.