Archive for Thursday, September 27, 2012

KU enrollment falls, but freshman class grows for first time since 2008

Kansas University Students walk on Jayhawk Boulevard past Lippincott Hall in this Journal-World file photo.

Kansas University Students walk on Jayhawk Boulevard past Lippincott Hall in this Journal-World file photo.

September 27, 2012, 2:46 p.m. Updated September 28, 2012, 9:18 a.m.


Kansas University’s total fall enrollment fell for the fourth straight year in 2012, but officials said Thursday that the university’s incoming freshman class suggested improvement in the future.

According to figures released by the Kansas Board of Regents on Thursday, the university’s total enrollment fell to 27,939, a drop of about 2.7 percent from 2011. Combined enrollment on the Lawrence and Edwards campuses dropped 3.42 percent to 24,577. That decline was partially offset by a 2.8 percent increase in enrollment at the KU Medical Center to 3,362.

The incoming class of freshmen increased in size for the first time since 2008, following an effort by KU leaders to reverse declining enrollments that included the introduction of new four-year renewable scholarships for incoming students.

“We’re kind of turning the corner,” KU Provost Jeff Vitter said Thursday.

As of the 20th day of class this semester, the new freshman class numbered 3,771, an increase of 5.3 percent from 2011. The class also set KU records for average ACT score at 25.1 and for racial diversity, with minority students making up 21.3 percent of the total.

A big problem where total enrollment is concerned is that KU’s biggest class ever — the freshmen of 2008, who numbered nearly 4,500 — began to graduate in 2012, leaving a big hole to fill.

Vitter said he hoped the university’s total enrollment would come close to breaking even in 2013, as the larger incoming group from 2009 begins to graduate and the smaller 2010 and 2011 classes remain. But he said he hoped for the number to increase by 2014, with enrollment approaching the 30,000 mark in about four years. That’s near where the number topped out in 2008.

“As we continue to increase the freshman class, we’re going to see those numbers turn around and then go up, which is our goal,” Vitter said.

Vitter said the larger freshman class, as well as its improved academic chops, could be attributed to an increased focus on recruitment as well as the new renewable scholarships. And he said he expects classes to continue to grow as that effort continues.

The new freshman class also set a record for high school grade-point average, said Matt Melvin, KU’s vice provost for enrollment management. That bodes well for future enrollment numbers, he said, because it indicates the class will have good retention rates.

He said the smaller incoming classes of 2010 and 2011 would continue to pull down total enrollment numbers in coming years, though.

“It just takes some time,” Melvin said.

Overall, Melvin said he was pleased with the 2012 figures. His focus is on increasing the number, the quality and the diversity of students, he said.

“I call it the holy trinity of enrollment management,” Melvin said.

Another contributor to the decrease in total enrollment was a drop among graduate students of about 2.7 percent. Melvin said much of that decline occurred in the master’s programs in business and education at the Edwards Campus in Overland Park.

Vitter said that plans to revamp MBA programs, among other developments at the School of Business, would help in that area in coming years.

“We have a stellar faculty, we’ve got a dynamic new dean, great momentum,” Vitter said. “We’re going to make some interesting announcements very soon.”

Some of KU’s schools did experience enrollment growth. The School of Engineering increased its incoming freshman class by 22 percent and its overall enrollment by about 7.8 percent. The School of Nursing grew by 11.3 percent, and the School of Pharmacy by 6.7 percent.

And the incoming freshman class in the School of Business more than doubled as it shifted to direct admission for freshmen. Its total enrollment grew by about 2 percent.

Altogether, fall enrollment at Kansas public universities dropped by 0.15 percent. Kansas State University added the largest number of students, 515, bringing it to a total enrollment of 24,378. Fort Hays State experienced the highest percentage of growth, adding 508 students to grow by about 4 percent.

Outside of KU, the Regents institution to experience the biggest enrollment drop was Johnson County Community College, which lost 590 to fall to a total enrollment of 20,443. Community college enrollment fell by a small percentage statewide, though it increased by 13.4 percent at the Regents’ six technical colleges, which have a total enrollment of about 6,000.

— Kansas University reporter Matt Erickson can be reached at 832-6388. Follow him at


Bud Stagg 5 years, 7 months ago

KSU is out recruiting KU. My daughter went through the process 2 years ago and it was a no-brainer which school was better. She is at KSU and our whole family are KU Alums. After seeing the debacle that was the KU Recruitment process I know why the numbers are down. I work with about 100 universities across the country in the Greek systems. KU is by far the worst system out there. Arkansas for example is bringing incoming classes of over 100, KSU is over 55 and KU can barely scratch 40 girls in a new class. The KU system is getting out hustled for good students all around.

kuguardgrl13 5 years, 7 months ago

You're basing KU enrollment on the Greek system? How shallow are you? That means that 1) KU students aren't interested in the Greek system and 2) maybe KU sororities are too selective in their membership. I don't feel like I'm missing anything in my college experience by not having Greek letters attached to me.

Jack Martin 5 years, 7 months ago

Just want to point out here that KU conducts more sponsored research than all other Regents universities combined.

Stan Unruh 5 years, 7 months ago

Agreed. One of our kids just graduated from KU in a research science and was selected by a top Eastern university for graduate study. KU was the best decision the students at our house have ever made. Our youngest will be enrolling next summer. My wife and I are not originally from Kansas and did not attend KU.

Topple 5 years, 7 months ago

Sororities and fraternities represent good students now? That's amusing, since all I remember of them were college students who acted like they're still in high school.

fiddleback 5 years, 7 months ago

Yes, when it comes to hustlin' fillies, Arkansas and KSU are indeed the envy of the nation. Bumper crops of eager beavers, y'all....

Bud Stagg 5 years, 7 months ago

No but the greek system is a representative sample of the general population. The fact that KU cannot bring in students that are motivated enough to join a greek organization or any organization is the point I was trying to make. The Panhellenic organization at KU is not recruiting well and that is one of their major obligations to the system. Apathy and poor technique are what I see. I used Arkansas as an example of a school close to us, FL, AL, LSU, MS, TX, OK all have better systems by more than double what KU has.

KEITHMILES05 5 years, 7 months ago

Sadly, KU just never "gotten it" over the years. My oldest so very much wanted to go to KU but they would never, ever pick up the phone and only casually sent a post card. This is student who was high honors and always lived in Kansas. It is true KSU does a much,much better job recruiting and it shows. The uppities at KU really don't care of any area othen than KC, Lawrence, Topeka, and Wichita. They write everything else off as non-usable. I'd think with Dr. Gray-Little being a new bird on the block she can see the numbers, etc. and she'd crack the whip. Bottom line is it not a priority and never will be. This has been going on for years and years and years. SAD and SHAMEFUL.

08Champs 5 years, 7 months ago

The Chancellor has made a lot of strides in the last couple of years in recruiting and retention - arguably the more important factor. A casual perusal of the newspaper over that time period would outline the initiative that is now part of nearly every department at KU- to prevent students from falling through the cracks. If you're going to slam the Chancellor at least have the information needed to make an informed statement.

fiddleback 5 years, 7 months ago

On the contrary, only in the fullest of contexts do they not lie.

fiddleback 5 years, 7 months ago

Stats are like bikinis: what they reveal may be suggestive, but what they conceal is essential.

Anyone really paying attention would give it another year into their strategic plan before spitting on the leadership. Seems like a lot of overhauls, both educational and organizational, are just getting underway.

jonas_opines 5 years, 7 months ago

"Stats are like bikinis: what they reveal may be suggestive, but what they conceal is essential."

Hwahaha. That's just great.

Stan Unruh 5 years, 7 months ago

Not true. We've had a student recruited in 2008 and one this year. KU's recruitment has changed dramatically from 4 years ago. Rock Chalk. Good things are happening.

LJD230 5 years, 7 months ago

What compelling reason does a kid on the east or west coast have for attending KU and spending four years in Laerence when they can get an equivalent or better education nearer to home?

A marketing and recruiting effort that promotes KU and Lawrence as an attractive and exciting place to get a degree is absolutely essential.

The hard question to ask is this: what is the value of a KU degree as compared to peer insitutions and will that degree bring a return on investment and be competitive in the world of work following graduation?

Jack Martin 5 years, 7 months ago

Joe & Keith – I’m sorry your children didn’t have good experiences with recruitment in the past. Stories like yours are why we have been changing our approach and being more aggressive in our outreach to students and their families.

We’re focused on recruiting students in Kansas, around the nation and around the world, but let me focus on Kansas since you mentioned it specifically.

Our recruitment efforts are statewide. When they’re not calling or e-mailing students, our recruitment representatives are frequently on the road, visiting high schools and college fairs across Kansas. For example, last month we held our Rock Chalk Roadshow, with events in Hutchinson, Garden City, Liberal, Hays and Salina, and visits to 75 high schools in between. This is in addition to the Preview KU events we just held in Wichita and Overland Park.

We’ve had a recruiter based in Garden City the last several years. We’re in our second year of holding outreach events with guidance counselors, principals and gifted coordinators that university leaders like the director of admissions and vice provost for enrollment management attend. We in fact have events in Concordia, Colby and Norton next week, and last week, we held these events in Winfield and Wichita, and the week before were in Atchison, McPherson and Great Bend.

Finally, our recruitment advertising, such as for the $50 million in scholarships and grants we offer, is statewide. And all of this is on top of the outreach that the KU Alumni Association does, such as through its 120 Hawk Days of Summer events across the state and nation this year.

The improvements to recruitment also include new scholarships I mentioned, including the four-year scholarships for new freshmen, the two-year scholarships for transfers and Jayhawk Generations scholarships for out-of-state children and grandchildren of KU grads.

This has been an area of emphasis for the university and it will continue to be. The increase in the number, academic talent and diversity of this year’s freshman class is a sign that it is working, but we also recognize that we have a lot of work still to do.

flyin_squirrel 5 years, 7 months ago


How about spending some time recruiting Lawrence? Or does KU just assume Lawrence kids will go to KU? I know many LHS and FSHS students who graduated with high honors, got scholarship offers all over the country, and never even heard a peep from KU. And then when they applied to KU, they were offered no assistance. It is sad to see my kids not even recruited by the school I graduated from and they grew up loving.

Jack Martin 5 years, 7 months ago

Flyin - We do spend a lot of time recruiting Lawrence. For example, Chancellor Gray-Little hosted a reception for the top 20 percent of Lawrence sophomores and juniors and their families just this May.

And the new renewable scholarships, based on high school GPA and ACT/SAT scores, have dramatically streamlined the scholarship application process, making it so a student will know what scholarship he or she will quality for when applying.

flyin_squirrel 5 years, 7 months ago

Thanks, that is good to hear, unfortunately too little too late for my kids.

DotHawk 5 years, 7 months ago

KU has definitely improved the recruiting of Kansas kids and that includes Lawrence. The past two years our daughter was recruited heavily by KU while KSU did not call nor send much through the mail. As KU alum, my husband and I encouraged our daughter to consider both of these schools while also looking at other schools out of state. As it turns out, KU has great new scholarships for incoming freshmen and their honors program is excellent. As a 1980's KU student from an urban area, I can tell you that the recruiting there has improved greatly. KU and KSU are both excellent choices and our next child will also be encouraged to consider both.

Steve Jacob 5 years, 7 months ago

I don't want to be that guy, but how many of the 21.3% minority is African American and Hispanic?

Topple 5 years, 7 months ago

It doesn't matter if they're minority, they have to be the right minority.

yourworstnightmare 5 years, 7 months ago

KU wants to get better. They should be very active in recruiting the best students from Kansas to raise the quality of the students who attend KU.

K State has made it clear that they will accept just about anyone. Declining Kansas population and thus enrollment is a problem that KU will need to address, but by raising standards, KU might be able to recruit more and better students from surrounding states and Illinois/Chicago.

shorttrees 5 years, 7 months ago

Recruiting freshmen is a no-brainer, and finally caring about transfer students from Community Colleges may be a start, but KU still ignores adult education, especially here in Lawrence.

Make it possible for an adult to finish their education while working. Have classes that count toward the degree at times when working adults or parents can actually attend. Make it possible for people to get additional degree or course work that facilitates career changes, and quit acting like anyone outside the traditional student mold is there to leech off the system.

Oh, and while you're at it, quit acting like parents are simply cash machines who exist only for the university's benefit. As a former student and former employee of KU as well as an alumni parent I'd be the first to say the problems are systemic and will probably never be fixed--it would require common sense which we all know isn't common.

down_the_river 5 years, 7 months ago

Even though KU decided several years ago to start hiding the Lawrence campus enrollment totals, once you sort through the information on the Edwards Campus, the numbers show through. It appears there are nearly 1,000 (946 actually) fewer students at the Lawrence campus compared with last fall.

We're still 4 years away from the reduction in enrollment planned with the selective admission initiative. That restriction is expected to drop 750 freshman from each incoming class. Without a concerted effort for student recruitment, there may be a need for more aggressive early retirement buyouts in order to shrink the staff and the operating budget.

Is there a significant reason KU has decided not to release numbers of enrolled students at the Lawrence and Edwards campus separately? If it's a concern for the K-State numbers surpassing our campus, well that's already happened, so there is no need to pretend. Let's be proud of being a great university for Kansas, and stop playing games with enrollment and tuition numbers.

Miles Nease 5 years, 7 months ago

I don't care if enrollment takes a hit, as long as students continue to increase their ACT scores and are better prepared for the rigors of an AAU university. When the new admissions standards are implemented, we will, most likely, see an even bigger drop in numbers. Kansas State College will become the largest school in the state because they will continue to take anyone with a pulse.

Bob_Keeshan 5 years, 7 months ago

10% of KSU's enrollment is online students, students who will never see the inside of a classroom in Manhattan.

Is that what believing in the value of teaching looks like?

Kyle Seiwert 5 years, 7 months ago

Just going to speculate that the amount of arrogance in this room probably has a lot to do with the free fall in enrollment at ku. Look, if ku wants to become more stringent, I get that. Nothing wrong with wanting to raise the bar. But lets not act like ku and KSU haven't had the exact same Regents criteria for admitting Kansas kids, because they have until the recent change (see links below for facts. I know, facts are boring, but they are facts). Lawrence does have more out of state students. Probably due to those tougher admit standards, right? And I was wrong yesterday for stating that Manhattan enrollment had surpassed Lawrence enrollment. That'll happen next year, but that 200 student difference is negligible. Again, maybe if ku people didn't look down at the entire rest of the state for meeting the same college acceptance criteria, then they wouldn't have an issue. Unless they want to limit enrollment, which is entirely possible, I suppose.

fiddleback 5 years, 7 months ago

Sounds like very typical sour grapes, the ol' KU-is-so-snobby gripe...

Reality check: KU is (for now) an AAU school, with its amount of research dwarfing the other Regents schools. Along with the many overhauls, raising standards seems like simply acknowledging that KU needs to revamp its programs and attract more of the region's best in order to keep its AAU membership.

I'm sure they knew that the rest of the state would deride this change as just another sign of arrogance, but that membership is one of KU's last real claims to being a national elite, and I doubt anybody with a sense of its value sees the change as anything but strategic.

Sharon Nottingham 5 years, 7 months ago

Economy could be a factor. But ku needs to focus on the student tours on campus. We chose kstate for our lawrence grad, and they had an awesome welcome and student tour guide who was funny, entertaining, and thoroughly answered our questions.

fiddleback 5 years, 7 months ago

LOL. Hopefully there were more factors at play than tour guide charm level.

Sharon Nottingham 5 years, 7 months ago

yes, of course there were more factors, I am not an idiot. but if u have two similarly rated programs, then i am sorry to say, charm does work wonders.

obamasocks 5 years, 7 months ago

We fall in rankings, we fall in numbers. Enough said.

Hardhawk1 5 years, 7 months ago

I have two degrees from KU and have been a local coordinator for the KU Honors Program for over 20 years in a rural Kansas area. KU acts like it does not give a hoot about kids from rural areas. I have tried to point out the problems, even being frank with the last chancellor directly about it. No change. KSU acts a lot more interested in the quality students from our area. The scholarship process is a joke. Kids here need all the help they can get. KU low balls the rural kids then will add money later if there is competition. One year our valedictorian ended up at KSU because they offered her more money. She had wanted to go to KU. When KU called her right before school started, she told them she was going to KSU. When KU asked why, she told them about the significantly better scholarship offer at KSU. KU responded that " we would have matched that offer". It was too late. Make your best offer up front and don't low ball the rural kids you think are bumpkins. My own child is a freshman somewhere else this year. One of the reasons was that KU had the wrong amount of scholarship based on his ACT score. We kept trying to tell them that they had a lower amount shown than what he should have had based on his high ACT score. They never seemed able to get it right. He has a full ride out of state so no 3rd generation Jayhawk in this family. When the state cuts funding I have no desire to contact my legislators about it because KU just does not seem interested in Kansas kids. My second child could easily end up at KSU in 4 years if KU continues its attitude toward high quality rural Kansas kids. That would just kill me but unless KU starts realizing they are blowing it and acts interested it may well happen. It is sad.

deec 5 years, 7 months ago

Students from poor urban schools get the same treatment. My daughter was valedictorian of one of the KCK schools with a 4.0 average. She ended up at Ft. Hays, because the financial aid package they offered covered her costs. Even though she wanted to attend KU, she couldn't afford it.

Jack Martin 5 years, 7 months ago

Hardhawk1 - Thank you for your work with the Kansas Honors Program, one of the KU Alumni Association's longstanding statewide outreach projects to recognize outstanding students. The scholarship process you mention has completely changed and is now based on high school GPA and ACT/SAT.

I'd also suggest you take a look at my earlier comment on the other significant changes we've made in recruiting students across Kansas.

Jack Martin 5 years, 7 months ago

And to clarify, the earlier scholarship process I'm referring to having since changed is the one you describe with the valedictorian of a previous year.

somedude20 5 years, 7 months ago

That's what I like about them freshman girls, I get older, they stay the same age

chootspa 5 years, 7 months ago

Or maybe the tuition hikes and bad economy have combined to the point where kids would rather go to a cheaper college or just hold off on going back to school.

Shardwurm 5 years, 7 months ago

Let's see...a 2.7 percent decrease in enrollment should equal about an 8 percent increase in tuition next year. Plus the University needs to hire more teachers who only have high school diplomas to teach the large freshman class - there aren't enough of them already.

Increase pay to professors who don't teach, and put all books in .pdf format and sell them for $80.

Yep...sounds like a plan!

SnakeFist 5 years, 7 months ago

  1. I'd like to see a breakdown of student numbers by gender. Women already outnumber men, are these recent enrollment reductions across the board or limited to a particular gender (perhaps, for example, even fewer men are going to college).

  2. I have degrees from both KSU and KU and own houses in Manhattan and Lawrence. KU and Lawrence offer far more research, employment, and healthy (i.e., non-drinking) recreation opportunities and a much better lifestyle. Furthermore, KU and Lawrence are closer to both Topeka and KC, which offer even more opportunities.

  3. The charm level of your student guide when you visited campus should be irrelevant to your decision. Frankly, there is very little you will see on a campus visit that is relevant to which school you should attend. You ought to look at, for example, the publications and research of the professors in your desired department rather than the aesthetics of the campus.

  4. I agree with the person who said KU does not seem to like non-traditional students. But I assume that's true at most schools.

  5. There may be some overlap in the Lawrence and Edwards campus enrollments. Biology, for example, rotates several classes out to Edwards, which forces some Lawrence students to take them there (and, of course, pay the separate campus fee).

oldbaldguy 5 years, 7 months ago

I hope things have really changed. My kid graduated in top 10 Lawrence High with a 3.98 GPA, 32 ACT and lettered in a sport and band. KU offered a $1K non renewal scholarship. Never recruited her. She went to a private out of state school on essentially a full ride and graduated second in her class. That was 11 years ago.

Run4More 5 years, 7 months ago

"According to figures released by the Kansas Board of Regents on Thursday, the university’s total enrollment fell to 27,939, a drop of about 2.7 percent from 2011. Combined enrollment on the Lawrence and Edwards campuses dropped 3.42 percent to 24,577. "

I believe the article needs to be edited as well. This statement doesn't make sense. The enrollment at the Lawrence campus is 24,577 with a combined enrollment at both campuses at 27,939.

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