HAYS, KS -- With a headcount of 5,472, Fort Hays State University has recorded the highest 20th day spring enrollment ever.
The Kansas Board of Regents uses the 20th day number as a basis of comparison for its six universities.
Joey Linn, FHSU registrar and assistant vice president for student affairs, said that until this year, the highest spring enrollment had been 5,447 in 1994, followed by 5,419 in 1999. The new record for the spring 2002 semester was an increase of 184 students -- or 3.5 percent -- from a year ago. The 20th day enrollment for spring 2001 was 5,288.
"We certainly are pleased that the first semester of our official Centennial year has set an all-time record for enrollment," said Dr. Edward H. Hammond, FHSU president. "We have a proud history, but this shows that we are not content to rest on our laurels."
"Once again, we see that our growth results in large measure from the continuing expansion of our Virtual College," the president said. The official 20th day headcount for the Virtual College was 1,281, which was also the largest ever. That compares to a Virtual College enrollment of 1,054 in spring 2001, which was the previous record. "We are proud that the versatility of our Virtual College makes a college education available to people who otherwise would not have that opportunity," the president said.
The Virtual College delivers courses from FHSU's College of Business and Leadership, College of Education, College of Health and Life Sciences, and College of Arts and Sciences over the Internet, on videotape and by other means throughout Kansas and beyond.
The emergence of the Virtual College also means that the 20th day headcount number is no longer a very accurate gauge of enrollment trends at Fort Hays State University. Historically, nearly all college students enrolled at the beginning of a semester. That has changed. The FHSU Virtual College offers many "asynchronous" courses, which are geared toward students whose jobs or family responsibilities make attendance in traditional classes difficult. These distance education courses allow students to start at various times throughout the semester. Because of the impact of this "rolling" enrollment in the Virtual College, numbers continue to climb throughout a semester.
President Hammond said the budget struggles in the current session of the Kansas Legislature point out the need for a new way to look at university enrollments. "We need to discuss enrollments in terms of the total fiscal year rather than an individual semester," he said, "because lawmakers look at the entire fiscal year as they set budgets."
For the most recently completed fiscal year -- 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 that fiscal year of 2001, after eliminating the overlap, was 7,702.
"The record-setting 20th day headcount for the spring 2002 semester will increase as enrollments in the Virtual College continue, so we are well on the way to surpassing the fiscal year 2001 headcount of 7,702 during fiscal year 2002 by the time it ends on June 30," he said. The official 20th day headcount for the fall 2001 semester was 5,626 students, but it grew 3.3 percent to 5,812 by the end of the semester. Incidentally, Fort Hays State was the only Regent university that showed an increase in first-time, full-time freshmen last fall, with 754 in fall 2001 compared to 737 in fall 2000.
President Hammond also emphasized that the much-deserved publicity about the success of the Virtual College may have 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 are predominantly committed to serving Kansans, anytime and anywhere."
Linn, FHSU registrar, said that credit for FHSU's continuing increases in enrollment should be shared by all the people in offices and departments across campus who work so hard to make prospective students aware of the wonderful educational opportunities available at the university, but he especially commended the faculty.
"Our faculty 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," he said.