Kansas public university, community and technical college headcount declines 1%

Overall five-year reduction tops 9% or more than 16,000 students

By: - September 29, 2022 2:00 pm
University of Kansas attracted the second-largest freshman class in the university's history on heels of KU basketball coach Bill Self and the Jayhawks winning the NCAA Tournament championship. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

University of Kansas attracted the second-largest freshman class in the university’s history on heels of KU basketball coach Bill Self and the Jayhawks winning the NCAA Tournament championship. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — Enrollment at state universities, community colleges and technical colleges in Kansas this fall semester dwindled 1% to accentuate a five-year decline in student headcount of more than 9%, officials said Thursday.

The Kansas Board of Regents, which has oversight roles among seven universities, 19 community colleges and seven technical colleges, reported 165,198 students enrolled at start of the 2022 academic year. Collectively, these higher education institutions lost 1,677 students from 2021.

The report indicated headcount at the six state universities fell by 1,333 students or 1.5%; Washburn University in Topeka slipped by 283 or 4.1%; community colleges declined by 630 or 1%; and technical colleges expanded by 569 or 6% over last year’s enrollment totals.

“The preliminary fall enrollment numbers show a continued trend of decreasing enrollment for many Kansas colleges and universities,” said Jon Rolph, chairman of the Kansas Board of Regents. “Our system is taking decisive action to reverse declining enrollments, better serve students and ensure that our state has the workforce needed to grow the Kansas economy.”

During the past five years, here are the enrollment trends by category: six universities, down 6%; Washburn, down 18.3%; community colleges, down 15.5%; and technical colleges, down 9.2%. The total stood at 182,010 in fall 2017, but has constricted to 165,198 to mirror national trends.

The University of Kansas recruited the largest freshman class in 14 years. Enrollment of 4,457 freshmen at KU constituted the second-largest such class in university history. In addition, the grade-point average of these freshmen was a record 3.66 and minority students represented 28.5% of those incoming students.

“While we are pleased with this year’s freshman class, we must continue our efforts to recruit and retain top students and create a university they want to attend,” said Doug Girod, KU’s chancellor. “The reality is, college enrollment continues to decline across the nation, and we continue to face flat population trends here in the Midwest.”

KU attributed the increase in first-time freshmen to the profile of KU athletics, including a national championship in basketball, as well as the university’s targeted recruiting, academic reputation and the influence of alumni.

Overall, KU enrollment on the Lawrence campus this fall went down 0.4%. The tally over five years has decreased 4.1%. Enrollment at the KU Medical Center was up 1% this fall and has risen 5.9% over five years.

“Getting students to KU is important, but equally important is ensuring they earn their degree in a timely fashion,” Girod said.

Enrollment of freshmen at Kansas State University climbed 2.9% and new student transfers went up by 1.3% on the main campus in Manhattan. Over the past five years, Kansas State enrollment has fallen 13.9%. That included an overall drop at Kansas State of 2.6% compared to 2021.

“The growth in our new student enrollment is significant,” said Karen Goos, KSU vice provost for enrollment management. “This is one of our highest priorities at the university and is a sign that our strategic enrollment management efforts have us headed in the right direction.”

Enrollment among Black students at Kansas State increased 14%, while the headcount among Hispanic students went up 6%.

Here are 2022 headcount figures for the four other state universities: Emporia State, down 5.2% compared to 2021 and 7.1% from 2017; Fort Hays State, down 8.2% from 2021 and 14.2% from 2017; Pittsburg State, down 2.6% from 2021 and 15.2% since 2017; and Wichita State, up 5.1% since 2021 and up 12.2% since 2017.

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Tim Carpenter
Tim Carpenter

Tim Carpenter has reported on Kansas for 35 years. He covered the Capitol for 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal and previously worked for the Lawrence Journal-World and United Press International. He has been recognized for investigative reporting on Kansas government and politics. He won the Kansas Press Association's Victor Murdock Award six times. The William Allen White Foundation honored him four times with its Burton Marvin News Enterprise Award. The Kansas City Press Club twice presented him its Journalist of the Year Award and more recently its Lifetime Achievement Award. He earned an agriculture degree at Kansas State University and grew up on a small dairy and beef cattle farm in Missouri. He is an amateur woodworker and drives Studebaker cars.

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