KU is striving to increase the quality and quantity of students.
In the next month or so, Kansas University will be enrolling a new director of admissions in an aggressive student recruiting effort.
KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway said so.
Proof of his desire to shake up student recruitment was the dismissal in June of Deborah Boulware, admissions director since 1991.
Enrollment on KU's Lawrence campus had fallen every year she was on the job.
Hemenway said he was interested in more than filling classrooms with warm bodies.
"I believe you ought to be able to say to every assembled freshman class, 'You are the best freshman class, academically speaking, that's ever been at this institution. Don't feel badly about it, but next year there will be a better class.'"
"If the university will recruit in that way, it will become a better university," he said.
The interim admissions director is Kathryn Tuttle, director of KU's new student orientation program. She has declined to be a candidate for the position, but a permanent successor may be appointed by Sept. 1.
In the late 1980s, KU was swimming in students. The university had more than faculty could handle. Students were packed to the rafters in dormitories. Recruiting back then was more reactionary than proactive.
It's a different story now. As KU's tuition has climbed, fewer nonresidents have enrolled. Dorm rooms stand empty. Kansans have plenty of college options other than KU, and they're taking advantage of them. KU is now forced to engage in serious recruiting.
Hemenway said the state's best and brightest high school graduates will know KU wants to count them among Jayhawk loyalists.
Telephone calls to potential students are the rule instead of the exception, he said.
Meanwhile, a new program has been devised to intensify recruitment and retention of second-tier students. The Mt. Oread Program will target students with ACT scores from 27 to 31. An existing honors program takes care of students with an ACT above 31.
"We found some of our brightest students didn't feel as challenged as they wanted to be," Provost David Shulenburger said.
These lower-scoring students will be offered scholarships, small classes and faculty mentoring, he said.
Shulenburger said he was disappointed that only two-thirds of KU applicants with 27-31 ACT marks enrolled at KU. In addition, one-third of students in the test-score group who did enroll didn't graduate within six years.
"For 32 percent ... not to earn a KU degree borders on the ridiculous," Shulenburger said.
KU enrollment last fall was 27,639, a 407-student drop from fall 1995.
That reflected a decline of 300 students on the Lawrence campus, which includes the Regents Center in Overland Park, and 107 students at KU Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan.
Robert Stark, Regents Center dean, said KU's decline would have been severe had it not been for an enrollment surge at the center. About 1,800 students are enrolled in graduate and professional degree programs there.
Demand for the center's courses will remain, he said. KU is planning a $13.2 million expansion of the center to meet anticipated increases in enrollment.
"There appears to be significant potential growth," Stark said.
Hemenway said enrollment this fall on the Lawrence campus should be close to last year's mark of 25,036. The tally has fallen each year since 1991, when the headcount reached 26,436.
Controlled growth is the operative philosophy at KU. A 1 percent increase over the next couple years would bring a smile to Hemenway's face. A big increase followed by a sharp decline would elicit the opposite reaction.
"A swing of 100 or 200 students doesn't mean much," he said. "You don't want a rollercoaster with a spike here and a spike there."
Part of KU's enrollment problems can be traced to increases in tuition for nonresident students. Nearly 400 fewer out-of-state students enrolled at KU last fall than the previous year. Resident student enrollment fell by less than 25.
A bright spot last fall was an increase in freshmen enrollment. There were 5,294 tenderfoots on campus, compared to 5,211 in fall 1994.