September 29, 2017 10:00AM
While overall numbers were comparable to most other institutions across the state in that they showed a slight decline, the university was able to partially offset that this year thanks to a 23.5 percent increase in students who took advantage of the school’s Gorilla Edge tuition pricing program. The Gorilla Edge offers qualified students in areas of Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Nebraska, Iowa and Colorado, the opportunity to attend Pittsburg State at a reduced rate.
Total headcount declined by 2.75 percent, at 6,907 students, compared to 7,102 last year. But the university saw a slight increase in two groups: it has another large freshman class of 1,016 students, and nearly 500 new transfer students.
While President Steve Scott said the overall decline was disappointing, it wasn’t unexpected. Like many universities, Pittsburg State experienced a significant drop (118 students) in its fall international enrollment. In fact, more than 60 percent of the university’s total headcount decline comes from the international student category.
In addition, Pittsburg State had record enrollment in 2013 and 2014, and those large classes have now matriculated out, according to Howard Smith, associate vice president for Enrollment Management and Student Success.
“Starting at the freshman level, it takes us a few years to get back to where we need to be,” Smith said. “That’s why these freshman numbers are so encouraging. It’s an indication that our expanded recruiting efforts are working.”
Smith credited the recruiting initiatives put in place over the past 12 months as providing students with a much more personal experience.
Scott said it’s an incredibly competitive marketplace for universities today, which makes programs like Gorilla Edge so important.
“Students and their parents are searching for a university they can call home and are willing to travel greater distances to find it,” Scott said. “Pittsburg State’s strong academic programs, attractive tuition rates and supportive community make it an attractive destination for those outside of the immediate region.”
According to the Kansas Board of Regents, there was a total decrease of 239 students (-0.25 percent) in systemwide enrollment compared to the preliminary census day count in 2016. Increased enrollment was seen at Fort Hays State University (442 students; 3.02 percent), the University of Kansas (46 students; 0.16 percent), and Wichita State University (607 students; 4.19 percent). Kansas State University saw a decrease in the number of enrollments (984 students; -4.14 percent), as did Emporia State University (155 students; -2.63 percent). Washburn University, the state’s municipal university, had an increased enrollment (113 students; 1.42 percent).
In the two-year sector, enrollment was down across the state’s 19 community colleges with a reported decrease of 1,502 students (-2.07 percent). Enrollment increased across the state’s technical colleges, where an additional 975 students (12.62 percent) are enrolled this fall compared to the preliminary census day count in 2016.