Fall enrollment drops at Pittsburg State

Sep. 30—PITTSBURG, Kan. — Fall enrollment has dropped at Pittsburg State University this semester, and the school has seen the highest decrease in the percentage of students enrolled out of the state's six public, four-year universities, according to data released Thursday by the Kansas Board of Regents.

The fall 2022 headcount for Pittsburg State is 5,858, according to the data. That compares to 6,017 students last fall, or a decrease of 2.6%, and 6,907 students in 2017, or a decrease of 15.2% in the past five years.

The five-year change in headcount at Kansas' other public universities ranged from an increase of 12.2% at Wichita State University to a drop of 14.2% at Fort Hays State University.

"Overall, our enrollment is down 2.6%, and the decline is in returning students," said Howard Smith, provost and vice president for academic affairs, in a statement. "We are taking an aggressive campuswide approach to learn what students experience as barriers to graduating, and already have begun to take steps to eliminate or reduce those barriers."

In recent weeks, the university has begun a move toward a professional advising center. It's also exploring scholarship packages to last for four years and is eyeing the possibility of implementing an associate degree as an option for students, PSU officials said in a statement.

"Ultimately, we want to see students complete what they've started, make it to the finish line and earn their degree because we know how important it is to their future, their earning potential and the workforce," Smith said.

PSU remains in the same position, with the biggest enrollment drop of the state's six universities over five years, when enrollment is figured by full-time equivalency instead of headcount. Full-time equivalency, or FTE, is calculated by dividing the total number of undergraduate credit hours taken in a semester by 15 and graduate credit hours by 12.

Under this model, Pittsburg State has an enrollment of 4,999 FTE students, according to the data. That compares to 5,141 FTE students last year, or a decrease of 2.8%, and 6,236 FTE students in 2017, or a decrease of 19.8% in the past five years.

The five-year change in FTE at Kansas' other public universities ranged from an increase of 6.1% at Wichita State University to a drop of 16.4% at Kansas State University.

Some increases

PSU officials on Thursday touted an increase in freshman enrollment, which is up 4.9%, and transfer student enrollment, which is up 2.4%. International undergraduate and graduate student enrollment also is up, rebounding from the pandemic with a total of 265 international students, the university said.

In general, student enrollment across the state's public higher education system decreased this fall, according to data from the Kansas Board of Regents. Overall, the system coordinated by the board — six state universities, one municipal university, 19 community colleges and six technical colleges — experienced a 1% decline in enrollment this fall compared to the prior year.

Across the six state universities, there was a decrease of 1,333 students, or a drop of 1.5%. Community colleges experienced a decrease of 630 students, or a drop of 1%, while technical colleges saw an increase of 569 students, gaining 6%.

"The preliminary fall enrollment numbers show a continued trend of decreasing enrollment for many Kansas colleges and universities," said Jon Rolph, who chairs the Kansas Board of Regents, in a statement. "Our system is taking decisive action to reverse declining enrollments, better serve students and ensure that our state has the workforce needed to grow the Kansas economy. Initiatives such as our general education package and implementation of student success initiatives will help our system serve and graduate more students."