With the addition of students in classes that started after the 20th day, the final count for the just-completed fall semester topped out at 8,957 -- setting yet another all-time record for enrollment at Fort Hays State University.
When Dr. Edward H. Hammond arrived as president in the fall of 1987, enrollment was only 5,136, so there has been a growth of nearly 4,000 students during his tenure.
The final total was an increase of 457 students from the official 20th-day enrollment of 8,500. The 20th day of classes is the first official enrollment day observed by the Kansas Board of Regents for each of its six universities because it affords a standard basis for comparison.
Throughout the 1990s, enrollment at Fort Hays State University remained fairly steady, increasing only gradually. As recently as the official 20th day of classes for the fall 2001 semester, enrollment came in at 5,626 students. Then it climbed to 6,392 on the 20th day of the fall 2002 semester and soared to 7,373 on the 20th day of the fall 2003 semester. By the end of the fall 2003 semester, FHSU's enrollment had topped 8,000 for the first time in its 100-plus years of existence, at 8,037.
The official 20th-day headcount has become less and less relevant at FHSU, which is a leader in distance education. Final headcounts were closely comparable to 20th-day headcounts before 1988, when enrollment began to soar in FHSU's Virtual College, which delivers courses to students at locations and times that fit their busy schedules. It delivers "mediated" undergraduate and graduate courses from FHSU's College of Arts and Sciences, College of Business and Leadership, College of Education and Technology, and College of Health and Life Sciences through various formats, including but not limited to the Internet, video tapes, CD-ROM and Internet Protocol Television.
Students continue to enroll as new courses are offered throughout a semester, so final enrollments at the end of a semester become significantly higher than 20th-day enrollments.
Enrollment in FHSU's Virtual College climbed from 3,777 on the 20th day of the fall 2004 semester to 4,197 at the end of the semester, an increase of 420 students.
On-campus enrollment climbed from 4,723 on the 20th day of the fall 2004 semester to 4,760 at the end of the semester, an increase of 37 students. While the on-campus numbers pale in comparison to the Virtual College, they still represent a significant increase given the declining population of western Kansas, which is the primary service area for FHSU. It also is significant to note that FHSU saw an increase in on-campus enrollment at a time when some other state and private colleges in the region are experiencing declines in enrollment.
The climb in total enrollment for both on-campus and Virtual College students from 8,500 on the 20th day of the fall 2004 semester to 8,957 at the end of the semester was an increase of 5.4 percent.
It also is interesting to note that the final enrollment of 8,957 for the fall 2004 semester was an increase of 920 students, or 11.4 percent, over the final enrollment of 8,037 for the fall 2003 semester.