Regents: ‘Changing student profile’ prompted enrollment metric switch-up

The Kansas Board of Regents announced last week that the statewide enrollment report, set to be released in the coming weeks, will include a new metric for counting students at state universities.

The new enrollment report will feature full-time equivalency numbers instead of the longstanding 20-day headcount metric.

“The switch to Full Time Equivalency for the Fall Enrollment Report allows the Board, higher education institutions, and the public to have a more uniform way of measuring the number of students served throughout the system,” Matt Keith, KBOR director of communications, wrote in an email.

Full-time equivalency enrollment is based on the sum of credits taken by all students divided by 15 credit hours for undergraduate students and 12 credit hours for graduate students. Twenty-day headcount provides a snapshot of the total number of students enrolled in for-credit courses on the twentieth day of class.

In a phone interview, Keith said the 20-day metric has lost significance over the years.

“It’s a number that used to have a significant amount of value,” Keith said. “But as time has gone on, the profile of a student has changed.”

Wichita State President John Bardo has been outspoken about what he sees as the changing student profile.

“What you’re going to see is people need post-secondary credentials and they may or may not want a bachelor’s degree,” Bardo told The Sunflower last month.

In recent years, WSU has made a concerted effort to appeal to “non-traditional” students. One effort to do so has been through the badge program, which offers working professionals and high school students online, self-directed courses for half a credit hour.

Other state universities have comparable programs — Kansas State’s Professional and Personal Development program and the University of Kansas’s Professional and Continuing Education program — neither of which count students towards headcount enrollment because courses are not offered for credit.

Badge course students, by contrast, are counted towards WSU’s enrollment numbers. With the old 20-day headcount metric, a student enrolled in a half credit hour is counted the same as a student taking the maximum 21 credit hours a semester.

Last year, WSU reported a headcount enrollment of 15,081 — including 901 students who signed up for badge courses and lifelong learning courses, which are offered to senior citizens.

Despite a drop of 136 degree-seeking students last year, WSU reported an increase of 607 students from fall of 2016, making it the fastest-growing university in the state, based on 20-day headcount numbers provided by the Regents.

Keith said the decision to switch to full-time equivalency was made at the Regents’ August retreat.

“At the board’s retreat in August, the Regents — one of the conversations they had was making sure that they’re using the most accurate metrics that are up to date — give the most valuable information,” Keith said.

WSU Associate Vice President for Strategic Enrollment Management Carolyn Shaw said headcount numbers will still be available, even if they are not the Regents’ primary enrollment metric.

“WSU will be reporting FTE (full-time equivalency), headcount, and credit hours as it usually does,” Shaw wrote in an email.

Keith said the Regents’ official enrollment report will likely be released the first week of October.