Enrollment drops; WSU looks south for partnerships

Enrollment+drops%3B+WSU+looks+south+for+partnerships

Ascha Lee

Students may see a few more empty desks this fall at Wichita State, like most universities around Kansas.

A recent official enrollment report by the Kansas Board of Regents revealed what some would call a dramatic decrease in enrollment for WSU, compared to the record-breaking numbers reported for the fall 2014 semester.

Enrollment at WSU was 15,003 in September 2014, but a 3.39 percent decrease in enrollment for fall 2015 dropped the official Shocker head count to 14,495. That’s a difference of 508 students.

In a news conference Friday, Anthony Vizzini, senior vice president and provost of Academic Affairs, said the university would continue making efforts to increase enrollment in order to reach its goal of 22,000 students.

“We’re planning ahead and always trying to look for new markets for enrolling students,” Vizzini said. “Our efforts don’t stop because we’re not happy with the number or we wish it were bigger. The fact is we’re advancing on all the fronts that we can. We learn from the data that we have this year to go forward next year.”

Vizzini said WSU is offering students from Oklahoma and Texas reduced tuition, giving those students the opportunity to pay one and a half times more than the in-state tuition rate. Vizzini said WSU is also focused on its efforts to give greater tuition breaks specifically to students from Oklahoma City and Tulsa, hoping to lower their tuition rates to in-state cost, as long as the students meet the university’s admission requirements.

 The Kansas Board of Regents, Vizzini said, is considering a proposal for that tuition decrease.

“If you recognize how much transit goes through the I-35 corridor, where we sit nicely upon, there’s a lot of opportunities for business interactions with our friends down in Texas and Oklahoma,” Vizzini said. “We know that if you bring students up to Kansas to educate them in Kansas, there’s a likelihood that they will stay in Kansas. If they go back [to their home state] and develop business relationships with us, that’s a bonus, too.”

Vizzini cited low high school graduation rates in Kansas as one of the reasons that enrollment could be down, not just at WSU, but also at other Kansas universities. While the total enrollment head count may be down, the official report did reveal that WSU has seen increases in online student credit hours, along with first-generation students and underrepresented minorities.

The fall 2015 report also indicated a record-breaking semester for students enrolled full-time, with 77.2 percent of students taking 12 or more credit hours.

 “We’re excited about the students that we have, and we’re excited about the students that we’re going after for next year,” Vizzini said. “We have to actually change the way we do business …how we can approach this problem in such a way as to increase the number of students that we serve, to get to that [enrollment goal of] 22,000 where we feel we’re much more sustainable in our operations.”