Overland Park Kansas University's Edwards Campus grew a tad this fall, but numbers remain below where they were five years ago.
"We're KU's baby campus," said Bob Clark, the campus' vice chancellor. "We're 13 years old. The medical center is 100 years old; KU, 140-plus years old. Under those circumstances, we have to evolve."
The campus, which serves about 1,950 students, measures growth by the number of credit hours students take.
Credit hours increased by less than 0.5 percent, from 11,275 last fall to 11,323 this year.
The current numbers are below those of 2001, when students took a combined 12,418 credit hours.
Despite lackluster growth this year, many continue to tout the Overland Park campus as a place of remarkable potential.
"There's no question that if we could build another building on the Edwards Campus, it would fill quickly with quality students," said Dick Bond, a member of the Kansas Board of Regents.
Clark had predicted enrollment would drop after the campus set a new policy, enacted in 2004, for charging nonresident students increased tuition rates. Prior to that, students had traveled from Lawrence to Overland Park to take advantage of the reduced rates.
As predicted, the numbers fell. Total credits hours dropped by 15 percent from 2003 to 2005; this year marks the first uptick.
Students pay a premium at the campus, Clark said. Undergraduate liberal arts courses, for example, cost $270 per credit hour. Graduate liberal arts courses cost $323 per credit hour.
At the Lawrence campus, undergraduate students from Kansas pay $183.75 per credit hour and in-state graduate students pay $227.05. Certain professional schools also have differential tuition rates.
Clark said he expects Edwards Campus enrollment to grow slightly in upcoming years, at the rate of 1 percent to 2 percent annually.
"We've got to get the word out to make sure the students come in," he said. "The other thing is making sure that the impact that this campus has on the community is felt. We'd like to develop ambassadors in Johnson County and greater Kansas City who will advocate for the growth of this campus."
There's plenty of room for more students. KU dedicated the $17.8 million, 82,000-square-foot Regnier Hall in 2004. And the facilities aren't full.
"Our enrollment could grow by another 25 or 30 percent with the facilities that we have and the faculty that currently are deployed to teach," Clark said.
Bond called the Edwards Campus a high priority.
"I think you may see some movement toward another building," he said.
At its largest, the 36-acre campus could support about 6,000 students. But reaching that point appears to be a long-term plan. Clark said the campus would be lucky to reach that goal in the next 10 to 15 years.
A necessary ingredient: public funds. Officials last year floated a $55 million plan to expand the campus, using a 2-mill property tax increase. But that idea fizzled, and Clark said he didn't have another plan at this point.