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As Overall Higher Ed Enrollment Drops, Wichita State, WATC See Growth

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Fall enrollment numbers were released Friday for regents universities and colleges, and they show a mixed picture at schools across the state. Overall enrollment is down in Kansas, but Wichita State University is one of the schools seeing an increase in students.

After pretty flat growth last year, enrollment at Wichita State is up 4.2 percent.

Each school does a headcount of students on the 20th day of class.

WSU counted more than 15,000 students this year, about 600 more than in fall 2016. WSU says its class of new first-time freshman is the largest in the school’s history.

In a statement, WSU President John Bardo attributed the growth to the school’s efforts along the I-35 corridor in Oklahoma and Texas, and increased recruitment of high school seniors and under-represented students.

See all numbers from the Fall 2017 headcount

Among the six state universities in the Kansas Regents system, Fort Hays and the University of Kansas also saw a boost in enrollment; Kansas State, Emporia State and Pittsburg State all lost students. Washburn University, a municipal school, grew by 1.4 percent.

Enrollment among community colleges also fell by about 2 percent.

But as many schools' numbers dropped, enrollment at Kansas' technical colleges grew more than 12 percent over last year.

Wichita Area Technical College, the state's largest technical school, saw record enrollment for the second year in a row, with nearly 4300 students enrolled for fall 2017. That's about 19 percent more than last year.

WATC President Sheree Utash says industries such as health care, manufacturing and IT are in need of more skilled workers.

"We anticipate and certainly hope and are planning for continued growth, and we're going to need that growth in order to provide this community with the workforce that they need in every area that we teach," she says.

Utash says the school's aviation program grew the most.

WATC is hoping to become affiliated with Wichita State University at the beginning of 2018. The proposal still needs to be approved by the Board of Regents.

Utash says if the affiliation happens, her school will be able to recruit more students from out of state and even internationally.


Follow Nadya Faulx on Twitter @NadyaFaulx.

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