Enrollment dips again for WSU

10:49:09 AM CDT - Friday, September 24, 2004

By Joe Kleinsasser and Amy Geiszler-Jones

Enrollment at WSU decreased 4.01 percent to 14,298 students compared to fall 2003, according to the official enrollment figured provided to the Kansas Board of Regents following the 20th day of classes.

Students are enrolled in 142,732 credit hours this fall compared to 147,563 hours a year ago, a decrease of 3.27 percent.

The average credit hour load this fall increased to 9.98 per student. It's the seventh consecutive year that Wichita State students are averaging a higher number of credit hours per student.

WSU officials won't know the impact of the enrollment declines on its budget until late October, according to WSU President Don Beggs. But based on budget and program decisions, WSU had anticipated an enrollment decline and had planned for it, according to administrators. Students shouldn't see any decline in courses or services, officials said.
WSU posted the greatest loss of students in the regents system, which had a system-wide increase of 670 students for a 0.8 percent increase over last year. Pittsburgh State and Emporia State universities also saw declines.

Fort Hays State University had the largest increase — 1,127 students, due in large part to its Virtual College, which enrolls students in China. University of Kansas and Kansas State University also had slight increases.

"Although enrollment is lower overall, some areas have seen growth," Beggs said. "We've experienced an increase in new graduate students, out-of-state students and a record-setting enrollment at WSU Westside. As a result of this continuing trend, we are looking at expanding our facilities and opportunities on the west side."

Student credit hours climbed 3.86 percent at WSU Westside to 6,975 credit hours. WSU is outgrowing its west-side campus at 7011 W. Central, which opened in 1994. Some classes have waiting lists while others simply aren't scheduled because of lack of space. WSU is in negotiations for a new west-side site.

New first-time graduate students are 594 compared with 517 in fall 2003, nearly 15 percent higher, and the number of out-of-state students rose from 33 to 538 students, an increase of 6.53 percent.

The enrollment decline is primarily attributed to three factors — fewer part-time students, fewer international students and fewer exceptions granted for students who failed to meet academic qualifications. The number of Kansas students has declined at WSU, just as it has regents-wide. The regents reported the total number of Kansas residents enrolled at the state universities decreased by 745 students, bringing the total number of Kansas students to 67,519 out of the total 88,270 students enrolled system-wide this fall.

WSU's drop of more than 400 part-time students is due in part to the closing of WSU Downtown and a reduced presence at the Southside Education Center. Both of those campuses had shown declining enrollments before WSU made those changes. In fall 2003, WSU enrolled 6,473 part-time students. This fall there are 6,037 part-time students.

While the decline in international enrollment continues to be an issue for WSU and higher education in general, WSU officials said they were pleased to see a decline of 9.28 percent when national predictions put international student losses as high as 30 percent. This fall WSU enrolled 1,203 international students, compared with 1,326 students in fall 2003.

The enrollment numbers were also affected by WSU's decision to enroll fewer students who don't meet academic qualifications. This fall WSU enrolled 43 freshmen who didn't meet academic qualifications compared with 136 freshmen in fall 2003. The Board of Regents allows state universities to enroll 10 percent of incoming freshmen who don't meet academic qualifications. Since that policy was established, Wichita State has observed that those students often struggle academically and frequently leave school after one semester. It's not only costly for the students who drop out of college, but it's also a costly expenditure for taxpayers who help fund the state universities, partly because WSU has to put resources into recruiting even more students to make up for those who left.

 WSU is working harder at using the special admissions process for students who have a greater likelihood of success. These students will be required to take a college survival course and other structured courses to increase their success.

Vice President for Student Affairs Ron Kopita said, "We continue to look at new ways to attract those students who can benefit from WSU's programs."

WSU enrollment statistics are avaliable at http://www.wichita.edu/my/newsresource/2004fallenrollment.asp.

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