Wichita State officials decline interviews, defer to letter about enrollment

Wichita+State+officials+decline+interviews%2C+defer+to+letter+about+enrollment

Rick Muma’s “Letter to the Editor” is the only university response offered to The Sunflower in attempts to follow up on our coverage of Wichita State’s enrollment that appeared in print and online Monday. Muma is the senior associate vice president for academic affairs and strategic enrollment management.

In that story, The Sunflower documented how, in the two weeks leading up to the official enrollment tally — after losing pace with last year’s student headcount — WSU enrolled 668 non-degree-seeking students in free, half-credit-hour badge courses and then reported the largest enrollment increase of any four-year university in the state.

The Sunflower reached out to Muma, President John Bardo, Vice President for Strategic Communications Lou Heldman, Vice President for Student Affairs Teri Hall, university relations, the WSU Board of Trustees, the WSU Foundation, other members of strategic communications, the admissions office, and several members of faculty senate. Those who responded either declined to comment or deferred to Muma’s letter to the editor.

Muma declined to be interviewed for this story.

Anna Lanier, director of operations for President Bardo, responded to The Sunflower’s request for comment from the president.

“My understanding is that Rick Muma … is working on a letter to the Editor to address the original article,” Lanier said.

Heldman did not respond to an email request for comment.

Hall said in an email, “The person you should really get a comment from is Dr Rick Muma.”

University relations also deferred to Muma.

The office manager for the board of trustees, Susan Johnson, said Andy Schlapp is responsible for the board of trustees, and he was traveling Wednesday. Schlapp is the executive director of operations for the board.

Johnson did not respond to The Sunflower’s request for her to forward our questions to other members of the board, and no one else from the board contacted The Sunflower by press time.

“The University supports the statements made by Rick Muma in his letter to the editor sent to the Sunflower earlier,” said Shelly Coleman-Martins, associate vice president and chief marketing officer for strategic communications, in an email.

Lynn Deckinger, director of marketing and communications for the WSU foundation, thanked The Sunflower for contacting her for an interview, but declined to comment.

“We do not believe that we are the best resource for this follow-up story,” Deckinger said.

The Sunflower asked each of these university officials if they thought the last-minute enrollment of 668 non-degree-seeking students in free, half-credit-hour badge courses was a conscious effort to skew the enrollment numbers in a positive fashion for WSU and whether they thought it was best practice to continue to count people enrolled in half-credit-hour badge courses as students in the future.

The Sunflower scheduled a tentative interview with Bobby Gandu, director of university admissions, which he later cancelled.

“I’ll be deferring this request for a unified university response,” Gandu said, referring to Muma’s letter to the editor.

Matt Keith, spokesperson for the Kansas Board of Regents, said regent universities, such as WSU, may include any student enrolled in a course with credit — such as WSU’s half-credit-hour badge courses — in its headcount, regardless of degree-seeking status.

“However, we do not see fall semester enrollment numbers as the most accurate way of capturing systemwide participation,” Keith said. “As we noted in the news release that we sent last week with the 20-day headcount, academic year enrollment is a much better metric for analyzing systemwide participation.”

The Sunflower reached out to administrators at the University of Kansas, Fort Hays State, and Kansas State, three other universities governed by the board of regents who reported enrollment numbers to the state last week.

KU and Fort Hays State did not respond to requests for an interview by press time. But K-State did.

Like WSU’s badge program, K-State’s professional and personal development program is aimed at engaging non-degree students. Unlike WSU, however, K-State does not count such students towards enrollment because their classes are not offered for credit.

Pat Bosco, vice president for student life at K-State, said he could not comment on another university’s enrollment procedure, specifically, but that the academic integrity of K-State prevented it from counting students in the Professional and Personal Development program towards overall enrollment.

“The integrity of our numbers have always been historically important to us,” Bosco said. “It’s just not something we would consider — it’s not on our radar. We don’t need to do that.”

K-State reported a decrease of 984 students in its 20-day headcount last week.

Kimberly Moore, director of WSU’s workforce, professional, and community education program called WSU “pioneers” in the realm of for-credit badges, but Bosco said K-State will not follow suit any time soon.

“It’s not how we do business at K-State,” Bosco said.