KU reports most diverse, academically strong freshman class in university’s history

A bus whirs by as University of Kansas students wait along Jayhawk Boulevard on Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2016.

The University of Kansas on Friday reported its highest enrollment since 2011, marking four straight years of growth.

According to data released by the Kansas Board of Regents, the university has 28,447 students enrolled across all campuses, an increase of 46 students from last September. All of KU’s enrollment growth occurred at the KU Medical Center, which has its main campus in Kansas City, Kan. Enrollment at the Lawrence campus and the Edwards campus in Johnson County was basically flat, declining by one student.

“We’re pleased to have grown our enrollment for the fourth straight year and to have welcomed the most academically prepared and diverse freshman class in history,” KU Chancellor Douglas Girod said in a statement. “To grow as we have, and to do so with such talented freshmen, is a clear sign that high-achieving students want to attend a top research university that offers nationally ranked programs and transformative opportunities.”

Statewide numbers

Total enrollment at the six statewide universities in Kansas dropped by a quarter of a percent — or 239 students –according to figures from the Kansas Board of Regents. Here’s a look at each school’s enrollment:

Wichita State: 15,081 students, up 4.1 percent

Fort Hays State: 15,100 students, up 3 percent

University of Kansas: 28,447 students, up 0.1 percent

Pittsburg State: 6,907 students, down 2.7 percent

Emporia State: 5,732 students, down 2.6 percent

Kansas State: 22,795 students, down 4.1 percent

Enrollment in the state’s community colleges declined by about 1,500 students or by about 2 percent, the Board of Regents announced. Enrollment in the state’s technical colleges grew by 975 students, or about 12 percent

This year’s freshman class boasted the highest average high school GPA and the second-highest ACT score of any class in KU history, according to KU’s news release.

The freshman class also includes the highest number of minority students of any class in KU history. Minority students now comprise a record-setting 20.6 percent of the entire student population, with out-of-state students comprising 38.4 percent of enrolled students — also an all-time high at the university.

The university also reported record-setting retention and graduate rates: The one-year retention rate for KU’s fall 2016 cohort is 83 percent, the highest on record. Additionally, 47 percent of the 2013 cohort has graduated in four years, while 62 percent of the 2012 cohort has graduated in five years. Those figures, according to KU, are both all-time highs.

Outside of Lawrence, the KU Medical Center’s enrollment grew 1.3 percent to a record-setting high of 3,556. The university in recent years has expanded the KU medical center in Wichita and Salina, and earlier this year opened the new 170,000-square-foot Health Education Building in Kansas City.

University leaders attribute this year’s record-setting retention, graduation, diversity and out-of-state student rates to KU’s efforts to “identify, recruit, retain and graduate best-fit students,” the news release said.

Among these efforts: last year’s implementation of new admission standards for incoming students, expanded recruitment efforts on a national and global (as opposed to regional) scale, and revamping KU financial aid in 2011 with new four-year renewable scholarships.

“The University of Kansas has made strategic decisions to elevate and enhance the position and profile of the university in a way that attracts more high-achieving students and diversifies our community,” Neeli Bendapudi, provost and executive vice chancellor, said in a statement.

“Today’s data confirm that, from the way we identify and recruit students to the way we support them once they arrive, we are continuing to make good progress in these areas,” she said.

Meanwhile in Manhattan, Kansas State University reported an approximate 4 percent decrease in enrollment. There are 22,795 students enrolled at K-State, compared to 24,891 enrolled at KU’s Lawrence and Edwards (in Overland Park) campuses. K-State also reported improved graduation and retention rates, however.