Fort Hays State University, which has been the growth leader for the past several years among universities in the Kansas Board of Regents system, set another all-time enrollment record with a 20th-day count of 9,122 students for the fall 2006 semester.
That surpasses the 20th-day enrollment of 9,019 students for the fall 2005 semester by 103 students, or 1.1 percent. The 20th day of classes, which was Monday for FHSU, is the official enrollment day observed by the Regents for each of its six universities because it affords a standard basis for comparison.
Even more remarkable, the 20th day count this semester was the first time that FHSU actually had more students enrolled in its Virtual College than on its Hays campus. The Virtual College enrollment -- students who do not take any on-campus classes -- was 4,620 on the 20th day, an increase of 135 above the 20th day enrollment of 4,485 in the fall 2005 semester. The on-campus 20th-day enrollment this semester was 4,502, down 32 students from the fall 2005 20th-day enrollment.
"We are approaching our goal of 5,000 students on campus and 5,000 students in the Virtual College. For the first time, we have more virtual students than on-campus students," said Dr. Edward H. Hammond, FHSU president. "This trend for more Kansans to take Virtual College classes reflects the national trend in which new technology allows people to access higher education in a way that supports their lifestyle. They don't want to give up employment but they do want to pursue a college degree. Our Virtual College allows them to do both."
Interestingly, the Virtual College enrollment for students at FHSU's partner universities in China remained relatively stable, with the growth occurring in domestic students, especially within Kansas.
Dennis King, director of the Virtual College and Learning Technologies, noted that President Hammond allocated more money so that the Virtual College could add about 10 new courses, which led to the increased enrollment. The Virtual College does not produce courses. Rather, it uses the Internet and other media to deliver 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.
The president pointed out that the university is serving students at only its four original partner universities in China, deliberately postponing the enrollment of students at some new partner universities in both China and Turkey.
"We very carefully control our growth, especially overseas, to ensure that we are able to maintain our high academic standards," he explained. "Our first priority is to be responsive to the educational needs of Kansans."
Recently released statistics from the Board of Regents show that FHSU has been the growth leader over the past five years of the reporting period. From 2000 to fall 2005, FHSU had an enrollment growth of 63.8 percent. During that same five-year period, Emporia State University saw an increase of 12.0 percent, Kansas State University grew by 5.7 percent, the University of Kansas increased by 3.9 percent, Pittsburg State University grew by 3.3 percent, and Wichita State University actually saw an enrollment decrease of 5.0 percent.
President Hammond thanked faculty and staff for their hard work in managing the university's record growth over the past several years. "We depend on our faculty and support staff for our high level of academic rigor," he said.