Special toTthe Gazette
Emporia State University and Flint Hills Technical College have released their census day numbers and they are better than expected. Pandemic fallout combined with several years of declining enrollment left many bracing for the worst buat Emporia educational institutions are holding their ground.
Emporia State University saw another year of record-high numbers of graduate students enrolling at the university. As of Sept. 20, 2,667 graduate students were enrolled, which is an increase of 0.8% from Fall of 2020 and the highest enrollment on record.
Many graduate-level programs are offered via distance education, which has led to growth. ESU currently offers 13 accelerated online graduate programs, 75% of the students enrolled in these programs are Kansas residents. This year, ESU’s Master of Business Administration-Global launched. It is offered in China and taught in Mandarin with English language skills included. It began in August and added students to ESU, even from across the globe.
Graduate programs that grew this year include informatics, art therapy counseling, clinical counseling and the Master of Science in elementary education. The Master of Science in Information Technology and Master of Business Administration which are offered in both traditional and online programs grew as well.
While Emporia State saw growth among graduate students they did see the anticipated decline of new, first-time students. Total enrollment for Fall 2021 is 5,615 which is a decline of 3.7% from Fall 2020. Of those students, only 2,948 are undergraduate students which is a 7.3% decline from Fall 2020.
“We expected lower undergraduate enrollment this year,” said Dr. Jim Williams, ESU senior vice president, Student Affairs and Enrollment Management. “After a senior year of high school drastically affected by COVID, many first-year students chose to take a gap year before starting college. These pandemic concerns paired with several years of record graduation rates negatively impacted this fall’s undergraduate enrollment.”
While colleges and universities throughout the state saw a decline in undergraduate enrollment, community colleges and technical colleges saw enrollment numbers climb. Flint Hills Technical College saw a significant increase in student enrollment.
According to the Kansas Board of Regents, there was a decrease of 1,735 full-time equivalent students across the six state universities, which is a 2.4% decrease. Community colleges experienced an increase of 425 students or 1.2% and technical colleges saw an increase of 57 students or 1%.
“The preliminary fall enrollment report brings mixed results and continues a systemwide trend in declining enrollment over the past five years,” said KBOR Chair Cheryl Harrison-Lee. “We must reverse that trend to meet the workforce needs of our state. The Board’s strategic plan, annual goals and budget ask are focused on initiatives that can leverage our system’s strengths and revitalize the Kansas economy.”