Last Updated on September 27, 2023 by Robert C. Hoopes
Emporia State University (ESU), a public university located in Kansas, has seen a significant decline in enrollment this fall semester, marking a 12.5% drop compared to the previous year. This decline comes amidst faculty dismissals and changes in academic programs at the university.
Interestingly, this decline in enrollment at ESU is in contrast to the overall trend in other public universities and colleges in Kansas, which have reported an increase in the number of students attending their institutions. The University of Kansas and Kansas State University, for example, have both experienced an upswing in enrollment, with the former even welcoming its largest freshman class ever.
ESU’s enrollment decline is not an isolated incident, as the university has actually seen a reduction of 19.6% in enrollment over the past five years. These figures highlight the challenges that ESU is facing in attracting and retaining students.
Ken Hush, president of ESU, has emphasized that enrollment numbers alone do not determine the success of a university. Instead, he highlights the importance of comparing enrollment to expenses in order to gain a better understanding of the university’s financial stability.
The decline in enrollment at ESU has prompted the university to request millions of dollars from the Kansas Legislature to assist with the university’s bond debt. This financial strain further underscores the urgency for ESU to address its declining enrollment and find strategies for attracting more students.
Interestingly, ESU’s enrollment remained stable during the COVID-19 pandemic in fall 2020, while other institutions in Kansas experienced reductions in enrollment. The University of Kansas, for instance, saw a 6.7% increase in enrollment this fall. Similarly, Wichita State University and Kansas State University also reported slight increases in their student populations. Washburn University in Topeka, a municipal university, bucked the trend by experiencing a 3.7% increase in enrollment.
Among community colleges and technical colleges in Kansas, there was an overall growth in enrollment of 1.1% and 8.6%, respectively. These figures indicate that students are still seeking higher education opportunities, albeit possibly exploring more affordable options.
Fortunately, there has been some positive news for the higher education landscape in Kansas. The Kansas Board of Regents system as a whole reported a 2% increase in enrollment this fall semester, reversing a declining trend observed over the past five and ten years.
Blake Flanders, president and CEO of the state Board of Regents, attributes this positive change to efforts made to make higher education more affordable for students, increased student financial aid, the implementation of a common general education package, and the availability of internships. These factors have played a pivotal role in reversing the declining-enrollment trend in Kansas.
In conclusion, Emporia State University’s decline in enrollment this fall semester raises concerns about the university’s financial stability and its ability to attract students. While other public universities and colleges in Kansas are experiencing increases in enrollment, ESU has faced a reduction over the past five years. The university’s administrators, however, emphasize that enrollment numbers alone do not equate to success and stress the need to assess enrollment against expenses. The decline in enrollment has further prompted ESU to seek financial support from the Kansas Legislature. Nonetheless, efforts to make higher education more affordable, increase financial aid, offer a common general education package, and provide internships have been successful in reversing the declining-enrollment trend statewide.