HAYS, KS -- On Sept. 17, 2001, Fort Hays State University reported an official 20th day headcount of 5,626 students for the fall 2001 semester. However, students continued to enroll after the 20th day, especially in FHSU's Virtual College, producing a final supplemental headcount enrollment for the fall 2001 semester of 5,812 -- an increase of 3.3 percent over the original number reported.
"That is the third highest enrollment ever at Fort Hays State University," Dr. Edward H. Hammond, university president, announced at a news conference this morning in Sheridan Hall.
The highest all-time enrollment was a 5,863 headcount on the official 20th day of the fall 1980 semester. The second highest enrollment was a supplemental headcount of 5,816 for the fall 1997 semester. The university did not begin tabulating supplemental headcounts until 1988, but these recent supplemental headcounts are closely comparable to the 20th day headcounts before 1988 because late enrollments were far less numerous before the recent popularity of the Virtual College.
The Virtual College delivers courses to students at locations and times that fit their busy schedules. It delivers "mediated" courses from FHSU's College of Arts and Sciences, College of Business and Leadership, College of Education, and College of Health and Life Sciences through various formats, including but not limited to interactive television, video, CD-ROM and the Internet. Students continue to enroll as new courses are offered throughout the semester, so that final enrollment at the end of semesters has become significantly higher than 20th day headcounts.
The 20th day of classes is the official enrollment day observed by the Kansas Board of Regents for each of its six universities because it affords a standard basis for comparison, but President Hammond has consistently pointed out in recent years that the changing face of higher education makes the official 20th day headcount numbers less and less relevant.
"We did have a pretty good year," the president said at today's news conference. The total on-campus headcount for the fall 2001 semester, with supplementals, was 4,482 -- a decrease of 136 from the supplemental headcount for the fall 2000 semester. The total Virtual College headcount for the fall 2001 semester, with supplementals, was 1,330 -- an increase of 164 from the supplemental headcount for the fall 2000 semester. The total supplemental headcount for the fall 2001 semester was 5,812, which was an increase of 24 students over the total supplemental headcount for the fall 2000 semester.
The president made another important point. "I think these figures are terribly misleading," he said. "We need to use figures that help people understand who we serve."
He explained that the more relevant way to count students is for an entire fiscal year. In fiscal year 2001, which began July 1, 2000, and ended June 30, 2001, Fort Hays State University enrolled 5,698 students on campus and 3,733 students in the Virtual College. Some of those individuals took both on-campus classes and Virtual College classes, so there is some overlap in those numbers. The actual FHSU headcount of students for fiscal year 2001, after eliminating the overlap was 7,702. "That's the unduplicated headcount," President Hammond said.
On the eve of what promises to be an extremely challenging legislative session due to declining state revenues, President Hammond said it was critical to talk about enrollment in terms that are relevant to the lawmakers. "I'm talking in terms of a fiscal year because I will be talking to people who must deal with a fiscal year budget," he explained.
Each of the state universities will make a presentation to the Kansas Board of Regents next week to explain how they propose to deal with tuition. "If our tuition strategy is approved, I expect we will be serving 10,000 people by 2008," the president predicted. However, he also cautioned that if the Regents or the Kansas Legislature impose budget reductions, Fort Hays State University would not be able to maintain the current level of service to the people of Kansas.
He also emphasized one other point of clarification at the news conference. He said that all the much-deserved publicity about the success of the Virtual College has created a false impression that Fort Hays State is providing education to a significant number of non-Kansans. "Of the 5,698 students we served on campus in fiscal year 2001, 93 percent were Kansans," he said, "and of the 3,733 students we served through our Virtual College in fiscal year 2001, 87 percent were Kansans. We predominantly serve Kansas citizens."
Joey Linn, FHSU registrar, said that this latest report of an enrollment increase should be attributed mainly to the people of the university. "Credit needs to go to the people in all the offices and departments across campus who work so hard to make prospective students aware of the wonderful educational opportunities available at Fort Hays State," he said. "I especially want to commend our faculty, who do a great job of teaching classes on campus and also ensure the academic quality of our Virtual College offerings by teaching those classes as well."