Fort Hays State hits 18th consecutive record fall enrollment

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10/05/18
HAYS, Kan. – However you measure it, Fort Hays State University has turned in an 18th consecutive fall semester record with a 20th-day enrollment of 9,473 full-time-equivalent students.

Full time equivalency (FTE) is calculated by dividing the total number of undergraduate student credit hours (SCH) taken in a semester by 15 and graduate credit hours by 12.

The Kansas Board of Regents decided this summer to transition the traditional preliminary enrollment count – the 20th day count – from the headcount metric to a full-time-equivalency metric for 2018.

According to the KBOR news release on systemwide enrollment, “This change will provide uniform data across the system to the Board, to leaders from across the system, and to the public.”

The 20th day, set by the Regents as the official enrollment day to provide a standard basis of comparison from year to year, was Sept. 17 for Fort Hays State. Regents policy is to hold any announcement of enrollments until numbers are in and verified for all Regents institutions.

The increase in FTE at Fort Hays State was the largest among the six Regents universities and Washburn, the state’s municipal university, both in number, 190, and percentage, 2.05.

“There are so many metrics we use to measure a university – enrollment, academic quality, financial stability, and community and global engagement, all areas in which Fort Hays State consistently demonstrates excellence,” said Dr. Tisa Mason, president of Fort Hays State.

“But for us, it is about much more than moving the needle. It is about impacting lives and communities,” she said. “Every single day we invest in students with the personal care and innovative education that will become the foundation for their success.”

While the university’s student body has drawn its record-setting increases from around the world, the university’s population of Kansas students has also shown continuous increases. This year’s total of 7,848 Kansans is 280 more than last year’s 7,568. This increase is especially notable since the Kansas Board of Regents (KBOR) for a number of years has challenged the regent universities to serve and credential more Kansans. FHSU has responded as the Kansas resident student body at FHSU has grown by 2,344 since 2008.

Dr. Dennis King, assistant vice president for enrollment management, pointed to a significant milestone this year: “For the first time, enrollment in the Virtual College, not including enrollment at the university’s international partners, was over the 7,000 mark at 7,005. Enrollment at the international partners of the Virtual College was an additional 4,007 students.”

King also noted that this year’s success includes the fourth-largest on-campus freshman class in history at 948. The number of transfer students also increased for FHSU this year, even though nationally the numbers of transfer students are in decline.

Fort Hays State set another record in headcount, with 15,523, an increase of 423, or slightly more than 2.8 percent, from the fall 2017 headcount of 15,100. Those numbers represent 4,511 on-campus students taking a total of 52,680 student credit hours; 7,005 Virtual College students taking a total of 63,873 SCH; and 4,007 students in FHSU’s international partner institutions, primarily in China, taking a total of 21,480 SCH.

Total enrollment, by headcount, is 12,780 undergraduates and 2,743 graduate students.

“Increasing student retention has also been an intentional focus for FHSU,” said Dr. Tim Crowley, associate provost for academic affairs. Student retention is a measure of how many students return for a second and succeeding years. This year’s overall retention rate, 73.8%, he said, includes retention of last year’s freshmen at the second-highest level in the last 15 years.

“Over the past decade,” said Crowley, “we have added learning communities, the Honors College and the Kansas Academy of Mathematics and Science. We have developed the freshman seminar course, redesigned our college algebra curriculum and created the student engagement and advisor program to provide support for our online students.”

Another metric – an especially important one for Fort Hays State – is also one of the factors that prompted the Regents to move to the credit-hour metric from the headcount metric. That is part-time students. In the 2017 academic year, 63 percent of students across the Regents system were part-time students. The KBOR system encompasses six four-year universities, 19 community colleges and six technical colleges.

At FHSU for the 20th-day count for fall 2018, more than 58 percent of the student body is part time. That is 9,065 students, graduate and undergraduate, taking 50,298 credit hours, or 36 percent of the university’s total 138,033 credit hours.

Those part-time students include 1,706 undergraduate Kansas students and 5,211 non-Kansans. In the Graduate School, the number includes 1,465 part-time Kansas students and 683 non-Kansas students.

The high percentage of part-time students who choose Fort Hays State was a key factor in the university’s ranking in September as No. 10 in the nation for adult learners by The Washington Monthly, which focuses its rankings on adult learners. Another factor in that ranking was FHSU’s 80-percent graduation rate for part-time students and ease of transfer.

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