Fort Hays State University has continued its record-setting trend of recent years with a 20th-day count of 8,500 students for the fall 2004 semester.
On the 20th day of classes a year ago, enrollment at FHSU climbed beyond 7,000 for the first time in history, breaking the previous record by nearly a thousand students with a count of 7,373. By the time the fall 2003 semester had ended, enrollment had grown to an all-time high of 8,037.
This semester's 20th-day enrollment surpasses not only the 20th-day count of a year ago but also the final enrollment for the 2003 fall semester.
Today's report is somewhat skewed when compared to the 20th-day count of a year ago because part of FHSU's enrollment in China that was not included last year arrived in time to be included this year. FHSU has partnerships with four universities in China. The enrollment at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing was not counted in last year's 20th-day report, but 719 UIBE students were counted in this year's 20th-day report.
With all of FHSU's students in China included, this year's 20th-day enrollment is 1,127 above a year ago -- an increase of 15.3 percent. Even if 719 of the Chinese students were not counted in this year's 20th-day enrollment, a resulting enrollment of 7,781 on the 20th day would outstrip last year's 20th-day enrollment by a healthy 5.5 percent.
While enrollment at FHSU remained fairly steady throughout the 1990s, increasing only gradually, the trend of rapid growth began 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. As recently as the official 20th day of classes for the fall 2001 semester, enrollment came in at just 5,626 students. Then it reached 6,392 on the 20th day of the fall 2002 semester. It climbed to 7,373 on the 20th day of the fall 2003 semester and edged above the 8,000 mark by the end of that semester.
Dr. Edward H. Hammond, FHSU president, said today that while he was pleased by the enrollment report, the university has already started moving in a different direction. "When I announced at the beginning of the semester at the General Meeting for Faculty and Administration that 'Quality' would be the theme for our 2004-05 academic year, I explained that we would redirect our efforts from growth to an emphasis on ensuring that we preserve excellence in the face of the tremendous growth that we have recently enjoyed."
Hammond said the quality theme emerged from input he received from the Faculty Senate and the Research Environment Task Force. "Responding to questions I posed for faculty last year, the Faculty Senate recommended that our university pursue a sustainable growth policy, consistent quality of coursework, more faculty involvement with our international partnerships, more support for Virtual College students, and an increased emphasis on research and scholarship," he said, adding that the Research Environment Task Force made similar recommendations for enhanced quality.
" We're tremendously pleased that students demonstrate their belief in our quality by continuing to enroll at FHSU in record numbers," the president said, "but faculty want to be certain that we also strive for improvement in quality and I endorse that goal."
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 2004 semester is 3,777, which is an increase of 1,122 students -- 42.3 percent -- from a year ago. As noted above, the 3,777 enrollment figure includes 719 students from UIBE in China.
The university also saw a slight increase in on-campus enrollment. The count of 4,723 on-campus students was an increase of 5 from the 20th day one year ago.
The FHSU Graduate School also increased to 1,327 students, up 26 from the 20th-day enrollment a year ago of 1,301.
The Kansas Board of Regents uses the official 20th-day headcount as a way of providing a uniform snapshot of enrollment trends at its six universities. However, the 20th-day headcount has become somewhat misleading at FHSU because enrollments continue in the Virtual College throughout the semester. The Virtual College, by delivering classes at a distance through the Internet, interactive TV and other technological advances, provides a way for people to learn and improve their marketability without having to uproot their families to a university town.