The enrollment records just keep falling.
With a headcount of 5,854, Fort Hays State University has recorded the highest 20th-day spring enrollment ever -- 382 more students than the previous record that was set on the 20th day in spring 2002.
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 before this year the highest 20th-day spring enrollments were 5,472 in 2002, 5,447 in 1994, and 5,419 in 1999. The new record for the spring 2003 semester is an increase of 7.0 percent from a year ago, the highest of the Regents universities. Emporia State University had an increase of 4.1 percent, Pittsburg State University had an increase of 0.3 percent, the University of Kansas had an increase of 2.1 percent, Kansas State University had an increase of 1.1 percent and Wichita State University had an increase of 1.7 percent.
"We are encouraged that Fort Hays State enrollments continue to set records," said Dr. Edward H. Hammond, FHSU president. "All the universities in the Kansas Board of Regents system are bracing for another tight budget year. By increasing enrollment, Fort Hays State University will be able to avoid significant tuition increases and thereby achieve our goal of making an affordable higher education available for all Kansans."
President Hammond said the enrollment records follow naturally from the university's promise of "Affordable Success," which has been realized not only in low tuition but also in the national academic championships by its students and nearly perfect placement rates for its graduates.
Enrollments are typically higher in the fall than the spring, and Fort Hays State set an all-time record enrollment for any semester with 6,549 students in fall 2002. In anticipation of that record enrollment, Fort Hays State had instituted only a 6.4-percent increase in tuition for the 2002-03 academic year. With no increase in fees, the actual out-of-pocket increase for its students was 5.01 percent.
By comparison, Emporia State and Wichita State increased tuition by 9.0 percent, Pitt State increased tuition by 11.5 percent, K.U. increased tuition by 25.1 percent, and K-State increased tuition by 25.2 percent.
Most of the growth in spring 2003 was in the FHSU Virtual College, which 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 official 20th-day headcount for the Virtual College was 1,654, an increase of 373 students -- or 29.1 percent -- over the Virtual College enrollment of 1,281 on the 20th day in spring 2002.
"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.
On-campus enrollment also showed a modest increase of 9 students, up to 4,200 from 4,191 in spring 2002.
The increasing popularity 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. For example, the 20th-day enrollment of 5,472 in spring 2002 had climbed to 5,894 by the end of the semester. Likewise, the record 20th-day enrollment for spring 2003 will continue to grow throughout the semester.
The university also saw significant enrollment growth in its Graduate School. The 20th-day headcount for spring 2003 is 1,352 graduate students, which is an increase of 214 (18.8 percent) from the 20th-day graduate headcount in spring 2002 of 1,138.
Linn, FHSU registrar, credited all the people in offices and departments across campus for working hard to make prospective students aware of the wonderful educational opportunities available at the university, and he especially commended the faculty.
"Our faculty not only help with recruiting, but they work with students in and out of the classroom to assure the high quality that makes 'Affordable Success' a reality at Fort Hays State," Linn said.