Faculty excellence and affordable tuition draw
record number of students to Fort Hays State University
HAYS, KS -- One year ago, on the 20th day of classes in the fall 2002 semester, enrollment at Fort Hays State University climbed beyond 6,000 for the first time in history, breaking the old record by more than 500 with a count of 6,392 students on the way to a final enrollment of 6,549.
Now that year-old record has fallen in a big way.
During a news conference today in Sheridan Hall on the university campus, Dr. Edward H. Hammond, FHSU president, announced that the 20th-day count for the fall 2003 semester had soared to 7,373 students, an increase of nearly a thousand students -- 15.3 percent -- from a year ago.
President Hammond pointed out that the total includes an enrollment on the Hays campus of 4,718, which is an increase of 216 students, or 4.8 percent, from last fall. He also noted some numbers that indicate the dramatic upward trend will likely continue. The number of new freshmen, 911, is an increase of 61 -- 7.2 percent -- from a year ago. Also, new students transferring from other schools totaled 1,179, an increase of 421 -- 55.5 percent -- from last year.
"Not only do we have growth across the board," President Hammond said, "but the growth in freshmen and transfer students shows that Fort Hays State University's promise of 'Affordable Success' is ringing true with those who are looking for a college education. While tuition and fees skyrocket at other colleges and universities, we have held the line at single-digit increases because of our commitment to the ideal that higher education should be accessible to all Kansans."
As it has for the past several years, FHSU's Virtual College continues to lead the way in enrollment growth. The Virtual College enrollment for the 20th day of the fall 2003 semester was 2,655, which is an increase of 765 students -- 40.5 percent -- from a year ago. Of those 2,648 students, 1,187 are residents of Kansas. The total also includes 850 students in China through FHSU's partnerships with three universities there, compared to 395 students in China a year ago.
The president was quick to point out that the "Affordable Success" message works because it is true. FHSU is the best buy in higher education for the entire state -- more affordable than other universities in the Kansas Board of Regents system, which in turn are more affordable than the private colleges in the state. That gap continued to grow this fall when the other Regents universities implemented increases for tuition and fees that ranged from 13.1 percent to 22.5 percent, compared to an increase for tuition and fees of 9.1 percent at FHSU.
The "success" claim is substantiated by a job placement rate that has averaged 98 percent over the past decade and by the performance of FHSU students, who continue to win national academic titles, beating schools such as K.U., K-State, Texas Tech, Stanford, Northwestern and MIT.
"For example," President Hammond said, "our Financial Planning students won the national American Express Financial Planning Invitational in 2001 and 2002 and finished third in 2003. Our debate team won the Cross-Examination Debate Association National Championship in 2002. The cross-country team has had the highest collective grade point average in NCAA Division II for the past two years and three of the past six years, and the wrestling team boasted 16 Academic All-Americans for the 2001-2002 season. Graphic Design students swept the top four awards at the regional American Institute of Graphic Artists competition in 2003 after taking six of the eight awards in 2002. Our Technology Education Collegiate Association students won two national championships during the 2003 International Technology Education Competition."
The president also emphasized the university's 17:1 student-faculty ratio and the quality of the faculty as key factors in the record enrollment numbers. The rising enrollment necessitated the creation of new faculty positions; seven new faculty were hired for the fall semester. "Professional Commitment has been the secret and continues to be the secret of our success, and I have selected it as the theme for this academic year," he said. "What has made our institution so successful has been the pledge that our faculty and staff will engage in the pursuit of the highest standards."
Finally, the president pointed out that FHSU enrollment will continue to grow throughout the semester, likely by several hundred more students. "The Regents have established the official 20th-day headcount enrollment as a way of providing a snapshot of enrollment trends," President Hammond said. "However, our Virtual College provides a way for people to learn and improve their marketability without having to uproot their family to a university town. With Virtual College enrollments continuing throughout the semester, the 20th-day count has become somewhat misleading. Fort Hays State's enrollment is always significantly higher by the end of the semester."