Chinese students are boosting enrollment at Fort Hays State University. But the decline in the airline industry is hurting a Kansas State University campus.
Those were among the factors affecting the mixed bag of enrollment figures released Thursday by state universities.
Overall, enrollment at the state's six regents universities rose 1.5 percent, to 87,600 students.
"The big picture is pretty much steady as we go, especially in the face of tuition increases," said Reggie Robinson, president and CEO of the Kansas Board of Regents.
Fort Hays saw the state's largest increase in enrollment, at 15.3 percent. Enrollment on KSU's Salina campus fell 11 percent, the largest decline, although KSU's overall enrollment increased 1.3 percent.
According to data from Fort Hays, 765 of its 981 additional students are in its Virtual College, which offers online and television courses. Ed Hammond, the university's president, said enrollment of students involved in dual-credit courses at two Chinese universities grew to 850 this fall from 395 students last year.
"In our mission statement, we're charged with serving the western half of the state of Kansas," Hammond said. "To do that, we need to have a critical mass in the Virtual College, to have enough people there to make the system work. The China program helps us do that."
Hammond also said his university's decision to increase tuition only about 5 percent -- compared with much larger increases at other state schools -- also helped draw students.
"We're trying to charge less and serve more," he said.
KSU's overall fall enrollment of 23,050 is the largest in university history.
Pat Bosco, associate vice president for institutional advancement and dean of student life, said KSU wasn't planning to grow much in the coming years.
"We've grown about 5,000 residential students in the past 15 years under (President) Jon Wefald," Bosco said. "We will stay around this critical mass. We won't grow anymore."
He said an 11 percent decrease at KSU's Salina College of Technology -- to 978 students from 1,099 -- was due in part to a loss of job prospects in the airline industry. A significant portion of the university's enrollment in Salina is students studying to be pilots.
"They got dinged by the downturn in the airline industry," Bosco said. "And probably the tuition increases affected them more than most. We launched a plan to have their tuition equivalent to that at the Manhattan campus. They went from having a community college tuition structure to one of the Big 12."
Wichita, Pittsburg and Emporia
Wichita State University saw the largest overall enrollment dip in the state. There, enrollment fell 4.1 percent, to 14,896 students. Almost two-thirds of the decline was in graduate students.
President Donald Beggs said the decrease was due to the poor economy, which hit the airline industry in Wichita especially hard.
"We anticipated an enrollment decline, and we budgeted conservatively," Beggs said. "While our student headcount is down, overall credit hours are keeping pace with last fall's credit hours, and individual student credit load is at an all-time high."
Pittsburg State University also had a small decrease in enrollment, down 0.3 percent to 6,731.
Registrar Lee Christensen attributed the decline to a large graduating class in May, the transfer of an air-conditioning and heating program to Fort Scott Community College and a decline in international admissions.
The state's other public university, Emporia State University, saw an increase in enrollment. ESU's student body is up 4.5 percent to 6,278, the largest enrollment since 1980.