Pittsburg State University reports a slight dip in enrollment.
While it is not uncommon, it does come at a bad time with state funding.
"We're more dependent on tuition than we ever have been because of the state financial situation. So anytime we have a dip in enrollment that also impacts our bottom line, so that's of major concern for us. Certainly while we know it's occurred in the past, it certainly gets our attention," Dr. Howard Smith, interim associate vice president of enrollment management and student success said.
Two contributing groups to the dip are: Kansas undergrad residents and international student populations. Graduation seniors are down in southeast Kansas high schools according to Smith, making the university have to look elsewhere in the region. International student populations ebb and flow with what is going on in the world.
"Certainly right now our Saudi population went down some this last year, but there's still a lot of Chinese students, South Korean students, Indian students that are still with us but some of those go up and down and that's not unusual as well," Smith said.
Though undergraduate headcount is down 142 students from this time last year, there is a 4 percent increase in graduate school enrollment.
Pittsburg State University today reported a fall 2016 headcount enrollment of 7,102, a decline of 142 from 2015. It was a similar story at most public universities across the state.
Of the six state universities, Emporia State University, Pittsburg State University, Kansas State University and Wichita State University all reported declines. The University of Kansas reported an additional 310 students, of which 126 were at the University of Kansas Medical Center, and Fort Hays State University, which has a large on-line enrollment, had an additional 448 students. Washburn University was up 26 students.
PSU officials said record graduating classes over the past two years have played a role in the lower numbers, despite growth in graduate and out-of-state programs.
“We had nearly 1,800 students graduate in December and May,” said interim associate vice president of enrollment management and student success Howard Smith. “Numbers like that are an important measure of academic success, but they also impact the overall headcount.”
While overall headcount was down this fall at PSU, graduate enrollment was up 4 percent, from 1,151 students in 2015 to 1,196 this fall. Undergraduate enrollment was also up for Gorilla Advantage and Gorilla Edge, two programs that offer in-state or reduced tuition for students in Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma. This fall, 1,563 undergraduate students are enrolled under those two programs.
“Over the past decade, our tuition pricing strategy in these areas has really paid dividends,” said Smith. “We’re attracting increasing numbers of students from out of state and we’re seeing great growth in specialized programs such as our School of Construction, which experienced a double-digit increase in enrollment.”
Smith said the university uses the enrollment data it gathers each fall to plan and target its recruitment efforts.
“We certainly need to better understand what’s driving the enrollment decline across much of Kansas,” Smith said. “We’ll also look at possible enhancements to our efforts in areas in which we’re already having success, such as the Kansas City metropolitan area, nearby counties in Missouri and Oklahoma and northwest Arkansas. And we’ll also look at opportunities for growth in some places that up until now have not been our traditional areas for recruitment.”
Smith said the university will also continue to work to improve retention.
“Pittsburg State has implemented a number of strategies to improve retention and we’re already beginning to see positive results from those,” Smith said. “We don’t just want students to choose PSU. We want them to be successful as students and as graduates.”
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