Kansas University is preparing to compete for a smaller pool of Kansas high school graduates.
Data released from the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education shows the in-state pool will shrink each year until the 2015-2016 academic year.
The numbers show a 9 percent decline from the peak of a projected 31,899 in 2007-08 to 28,796 in 2014-15.
Lisa Pinamonti Kress, director of KU's office of admissions and scholarships, said the data usually corresponds with the number of applicants that the school receives, so it's factored into the recruitment process. Her office uses the data to choose where to focus recruitment efforts.
"We knew that we had reached a peak in a lot of our feeder states," she said.
The university pulls heavily from states like Missouri, Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, Oklahoma and Colorado, and most of them are projected to experience declines in the coming years as well, she said.
"The decline for this year, it's pretty slight, but it just keeps declining," Kress said.
Reggie Robinson, president and CEO of the Kansas Board of Regents, said the data would be incorporated into a strategic agenda that the board is preparing for its member institutions.
Participation is one of five key areas that the board is expected to ask its institutions to examine, and the stabilizing and declining pool of high school graduates will pose some additional challenges to schools in the state, he said.
"I think institutions need to set their sights on reaching more deeply into that pool," Robinson said.
He said a larger emphasis should be placed on attracting students of color, including African-American and Hispanic populations.
And, he said, universities should look at whether they are attracting adult learners who may have some college experience but no associate's degree or bachelor's degree.
"We need to be asking ourselves, 'Are those pathways into our universities as obstacle-free as they need to be?'" he said.
Kress said KU continues to step up recruiting efforts with receptions across the state and a Rock Chalk Road Show that travels across central and western Kansas. A multicultural tour went through Johnson County and Wichita earlier this year, Kress said.
KU officials also are reaching outside the borders.
Texas is projected to have an increasing number of high school graduates, so KU decided to place a full-time recruiter there, Kress said. The regional recruiter position is the first of its kind to be employed by the university. That person would live in the state, and would go to high schools, establish relationships with counselors and attend college fairs in the area.
Kress said the department hopes to be able to expand the positions to reach out to additional areas of the country, with the Chicago area potentially being the next targeted location. Many Big 12 Conference schools also have regional recruiters in Texas, she said.
"It's very important to do strategic recruitment," Kress said.