FHSU scorches enrollment record: Convenience of Virtual College classes attracts record numbers during summer term

FHSU scorches enrollment record
Convenience of FHSU's Virtual College classes
attracts record numbers during summer term

08/29/07 ks local, area, key
HAYS, Kan. -- Fort Hays State University established an all-time high with 3,635 students enrolled during the just-ended 2007 summer term.

While it did not come as a surprise, the record summer enrollment was dramatic proof that a trend of declining summer enrollments has ended. Those summer declines of recent years were especially notable when contrasted with the amazing growth that was occurring during the fall and spring semesters.

FHSU began a pattern of rapid growth several years ago when other universities in Kansas started implementing double-digit tuition increases. With a slogan of "Affordable Success," FHSU touted its lower tuition and its record of academic excellence, and its fall and spring enrollments began to soar.

According to the most recent statistics available from the Kansas Board of Regents, FHSU enjoyed an astounding enrollment growth of 63.8 percent from fall 2000 to fall 2005. During that same five-year period, Emporia State University had the second-highest increase with just 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.

FHSU enrollments in the summer terms had dipped since the early '90s.

"Much of our overall growth has been fueled by the Virtual College, which provides education at a distance and allows people to advance their careers by earning college degrees without disrupting their family by moving to a university town," said Dr. Edward H. Hammond, FHSU president. "The trend nationally has been downward for enrollments during the summer, and FHSU was no exception. There was a lag of a few years before prospective students began to realize they could earn college credit in Virtual College classes during the summer just as others were doing during the fall and spring semesters."

For the past 15 years FHSU has experienced an almost uninterrupted downward trend in on-campus enrollment during summer terms (see attached chart). In fact, on-campus enrollment fell by more than half from 2,466 in the summer of 1992 to 1,166 in the summer of 2006.

During that same period, though, people began to discover the convenience of the Virtual College for summer classes. It has been especially helpful for teachers, who must satisfy continuing education requirements to remain certified. From just 740 off-campus students during the 1992 summer term, off-campus enrollment more than tripled to 2,330 in the summer of 2007.

"The convenience of the Virtual College has been a godsend for the students we serve, but it has also provided a great benefit for our faculty," President Hammond said. "Many members of the faculty have long depended on supplementing their base salaries by teaching summer classes. The declining summer enrollments worked a hardship on those faculty, but now the opportunities to pick up extra money by teaching during the summer are at an all-time high."

FHSU has a long history of providing distance education throughout Kansas and beyond. In 1911, when a crop failure depleted financial resources and prevented teachers from coming to Hays to renew their certification, President William Picken dispatched faculty to towns across western Kansas to provide the needed classes. FHSU has been delivering education across western Kansas ever since through correspondence courses, in face-to-face classes and by means of the latest communication technologies.

Dr. Joey Linn, FHSU registrar, checked the records and discovered that the 3,635 students who took classes during the 2007 summer session established the record not only for recent years but for the university's entire history.

Summer Term    On Campus    Off Campus    Total Enrollment
2007                1,305            2,330            3,635
2006                1,166            2,052            3,218
2005                1,289            2,003            3,292
2004                1,351            1,809            3,160
2003                1,452            1,470            2,922
2002                1,674            1,221            2,895
2001                1,774            1,047            2,821
2000                1,711               928           2,639
1999                1,933            1,179            3,112
1998                1,860               877            2,737
1997                2,017               904            2,921
1996                2,004               942            2,946
1995                2,223               853            3,076
1994                2,315               892            3,207
1993                2,322               663            2,985
1992                2,466               740            3,206

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Kent Steward, Director   |  ksteward@fhsu.edu  |  Kurt Beyers, Assistant Director   |  kbeyers@fhsu.edu