The trends reflected in the Kansas Board of Regents’ fall enrollment report may bode well for efforts to expand business and technical training programs in Lawrence.
The Regents have reported the headcount taken on the 20th day of classes at the state’s universities, community colleges and technical schools. The state’s six universities, plus Washburn University in Topeka showed a modest overall decline of 0.12 percent this fall. The enrollment drop was considerably greater at the state’s 19 community colleges, which recorded an overall drop of 3.82 percent.
However, enrollment was a different story at the state’s six technical schools, which had an overall increase of 7.91 percent. Three of the schools — Flint Hills, Manhattan Area and Northwest KS technical colleges — saw enrollment increases of more than 10 percent. Only North Central KS Technical College recorded a decline — 34 students, or 4.24 percent.
Washburn Institute of Technology is counted separately from the other schools, but it reported a whopping 26.3 percent enrollment increase. That provides an interesting contrast with the enrollment at the main Washburn campus, which dropped by 3.21 percent.
Officials at a number of community colleges said they had expected some decline in enrollment this year after several boom years. Community college enrollment tends to rise when the economy is struggling, they said, and decline when the job market improves. Some students may also have been taking advantage of relatively low tuition at those schools and now have moved on to universities to pursue bachelor’s degrees.
Another possible explanation is that some students attending community colleges are still concerned about obtaining the practical skills they need to get a job and have chosen to take another route: a technical school program.
Universities, community colleges and technical schools all play an important role in providing the kind of post-secondary education that Kansans need to take a productive role in the state’s work force.
However, as some Lawrence advocates have been saying for years, there are many, many well-paying jobs that don’t require a university education. With current trends in post-secondary education, it seems the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce and Lawrence school district may be pursuing plans to expand technical training programs at exactly the right time.