Enrollment for the spring 2006 semester at Fort Hays State University fell 2.4 percent compared to the spring 2005 semester, down to 6,997 students compared to 7,165 a year ago.
The count of 6,997 was for the 20th day of classes, which was Feb. 8 at FHSU. The 20th day of each semester is the official enrollment day observed by the Regents for its six universities because it affords a standard basis for comparison. Classes do not start on the same day at all the universities, so the 20th-day counts are not released until the last of the six universities reaches its 20th day, which this year was the University of Kansas.
Enrollment at FHSU is divided into two basic categories -- on-campus students, and students who take only Virtual College classes, which are delivered off-campus through various means such as the Internet.
The 20th-day enrollment for on-campus students fell from 4,344 in spring 2005 to 4,129 on the 20th day of the 2006 semester -- a drop of 215 students, or 5.0 percent. The 20th-day enrollment for Virtual College students climbed from 2,821 in spring 2005 to 2,868 on the 20th day of the 2006 semester -- an increase of 47 students, or 1.7 percent. Thus, the net change for FHSU's enrollment was a decrease of 168 students from spring 2005 to spring 2006.
"The drop in enrollment did not take us by surprise," said Dr. Edward H. Hammond, FHSU president. "Spring enrollments are typically somewhat lower than the preceding fall enrollment, and our on-campus 20th-day enrollment in the fall semester of this 2005-2006 academic year was down by 189 students from the previous fall. So, this semester's decline in on-campus enrollment was expected."
FHSU actually set an all-time enrollment record in the fall 2005 semester because the increase in Virtual College students far surpassed the decrease in on-campus students. However, FHSU has been slowing its efforts to increase overseas enrollment for the past couple of years, and that effort was evident this semester in the marginal increase in Virtual College students.
"We deliberately wanted to curb enrollment growth temporarily while we did some evaluating to ensure that our academic rigor was being maintained," President Hammond said. "Without the dedication of our faculty and support staff, it would not have been possible to maintain our high level of academic quality during these past several years of unprecedented growth."
Enrollment at FHSU remained fairly steady through the 1990s, increasing about 1 percent a year, but the trend of rapid growth began a few years ago when other universities in Kansas started implementing double-digit tuition increases. With a slogan of "Affordable Success," FHSU began to tout its lower tuition and its record of academic excellence, and its enrollment began to soar.
According to statistics released by the Regents office last year, FHSU enjoyed an astounding enrollment growth of 53.6 percent from fall 1999 to fall 2004. During that same five-year period, Emporia State University saw an increase of 10.4 percent, Kansas State University grew by 7.4 percent, the University of Kansas increased by 6.2 percent, Pittsburg State University grew by 3.9 percent, and Wichita State University actually saw an enrollment decrease of 2.2 percent.
"We anticipate that this year's enrollment is only a lull in what will be continuing growth," the president said. "With population declining in western Kansas, our primary service area, we are redoubling our efforts to attract traditional students to campus from the state's populous 'turnpike corridor,' and we have added a partnership with a university in Turkey and two new partnerships with universities in China, bringing our total there to six."