Kansas University opened its doors 125 years ago with three faculty members presiding over the teaching of Latin, Greek, math and philosophy.
Since that time, KU has diversified into a broad-based center of learning with nine professional schools and a College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
The university offers students many academic options, with 76 bachelor's degree, 78 master's degree and 60 doctoral degree programs.
Dave Shulenburger, associate vice chancellor for academic affairs, said some programs have grown dramatically in popularity over the past few years.
Communication studies, political science and psychology are boom areas of the curriculum, he said.
FOR EXAMPLE, a Board of Regents survey indicated KU had 185 communications studies majors in 1986. By spring semester 1991, there were 750.
"There has been phenomenal interest generated in communications studies. This is true nationally," said Wil Linkugel, chair of the department.
"We've been discovered in terms of the private sector, and there is great teaching going on here," he said.
Linkugel said there are negative side effects to growth in the popularity of communications studies.
"Our classes have tripled in size . . . and we have waiting lists for students to get in. Sometimes we have over 100 trying to get in," he said.
Brower Burchill, associate vice chancellor for academic affairs, said environmental studies is another growth field.
"It's certainly hot now," he said.
The introductory lecture course in environmental studies filled rapidly the past three years, said Steve Hamburg, assistant professor of systematics and ecology.
A clue to popular areas of study shows in statistics that KU's Office of Institutional Research and Planning compiles on the number of bachelor's degrees awarded each year at the university.
THE FIVE most popular degrees awarded in 1989-90, number of graduates that year and percent change in graduation rate over five years:
Business and management, 499 students, down 25 percent.
Communications, 495, up 33 percent.
Social sciences, 340, up 70 percent.
Engineering, 282, down 3 percent
Education, 264, up 66 percent.
Shulenburger said statistics can be misleading. For example, KU officials intentionally reduced enrollment in business courses and leveled enrollment in engineering.
"Enrollment didn't go down in those areas because they are bad programs," he said.
IN THE business school, access remains restricted because the school doesn't have the resources to meet enrollment demand and maintain quality programs.
"We are just so tight on resources," said Shulenburger, a former business school administrator.
Carl Locke, engineering dean, said the school has attempted to hold down enrollment to maintain a quality program. Enrollment has been stable for several years, he said.
However, engineering continues to be a popular field for students, in part because of the high salaries paid recipients of engineering bachelor's degrees, he said.