Views from Kansas: Enrollment woes at K-State

Editor’s Note: Views from Kansas is a regular feature that highlights editorials and other viewpoints from across the state.

More sobering indications from campus: Enrollment is down again.

Official numbers won’t be available for a little while, but the university provost told the Manhattan Rotary Club this past week that enrollment has dropped this fall. It’s been down now for five straight years; it was already off by 10% since the 2014-15 school year, when it peaked at just under 25,000.

We’ve said this before, and we’ll say it again: That is the biggest problem in our area.

Manhattan is a college town, and the region depends on K-State and Fort Riley to serve as pillars of the economy. Fort Riley’s level of employment wobbles from time to time, and sometimes there’s the threat of closure or major cutbacks. We all get pretty worked up; there are commissions and big public meetings, as there should be. We have to always remain aware of its importance and work to strengthen it.

The same needs to be said of K-State. It’s easy to take for granted that the college in our college town will always be there. We aren’t going to hold a big rally to support continued enrollment, unless you consider a home football game essentially the same thing, and we might agree with you to an extent.

But we shouldn’t take it for granted. Enrollment is leaking away, and it will take sustained effort to turn that around. A consultant’s report in late 2017 proposed a plan, but at this point there are no results to point to. The provost this week indicated that it would take three years to see substantial change.

K-State itself, and the state Board of Regents and the state government, are responsible for fixing the problem. But we can all help, both by thinking about it, coming up with suggestions and taking action in whatever way we can. Manhattan is a great college town, partly because of the actions we all take every day. So let’s just continue, and keep the issue front-and-center.

Let’s also encourage state and local leaders to put student enrollment near the top of their priorities. There really aren’t any more important issues for us.

— Originally published in The Manhattan Mercury


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