September 28, 2012 12:00AM
It’s an all-time record. Pittsburg State University reported today a fall enrollment of 7,289, which surpasses the previous record of 7,275, set in 2009. Those are numbers that please not only PSU officials, but also officials in the community, who know how much enrollment affects the local economy.
The Kansas Board of Regents reported that total public university enrollment declined slightly to 100,885. Pittsburg State University, Kansas State University and Fort Hays State University reported increases while enrollment declined at the University of Kansas, Emporia State University, Washburn University and Wichita State University.
PSU officials said they were pleased not just with record enrollment, but with evidence that Pittsburg State is the first choice for an increasingly diverse mix of students and for growing numbers of students in the Gorilla Advantage counties.
“Our minority enrollment jumped 16 percent this fall and over the past two years is up nearly 36 percent,” said Bill Ivy, associate vice president for enrollment management and student success. “Increasing diversity is one of our goals and it is clear that we’re having success. We still have work to do, but we are clearly headed in the right direction.”
According to PSU’s official 2012 fall headcount report, 868 students are minorities, or nearly 12 percent of the total.
Another focus for the university has been recruiting students from the Gorilla Advantage counties in Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma, who attend PSU at in-state rates.
“One key factor in PSU’s enrollment growth is the popular Gorilla Advantage Program,” said Ivy.
Ivy noted that undergraduate enrollment from the Gorilla Advantage counties grew 6.4 percent over 2011 to 1,301 this fall. Including graduate students, 1,508 students (nearly 21 percent of the total student body) now hail from Gorilla Advantage counties.
Some of that growth is coming from northwest Arkansas, which was added to the Gorilla Advantage Program just two years ago. In 2010, just seven PSU students came from northwest Arkansas. In 2011, that number jumped to 32 and this fall, it shot up 81 percent to 58.
Johnson County, Kan., Ivy said, remains an important source of new Pittsburg State students.
“Johnson County continues to be our most significant single source for students,” Ivy said. “This year there are 984 students at PSU who are from Johnson County. That’s an increase of 12 percent over the past two years and 133 percent since 2000.”
Blake Benson, executive director of the Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce, said enrollment growth at PSU is always good news for the community and the local economy.
“It has been conservatively estimated that each student brings more than $10,000 to the local economy each year,” said Benson. “Using that formula, students from the Gorilla Advantage counties alone pump more than $15 million into the local economy. However, as important as this economic impact is, it’s the enthusiasm and energy they bring to our community that make them so invaluable.”
Ivy attributed PSU’s steady growth to a new awareness of PSU in high-growth areas of the region, such as greater Johnson County, Kan., and northwest Arkansas.
“Our admissions counselors are visiting high schools in these important counties and they are included in the university’s marketing strategy,” Ivy said.
Additionally, some of the best ambassadors for the university, Ivy said, are its own students.
“Some of our best recruiters are students who tell their friends in their home communities about the great education they’re getting at PSU, how much they love the campus and their teachers and how happy they chose Pitt State,” Ivy said.