University sets new enrollment record, minorities increase 16%
Gretchen Burns & Carl J. Bachus| Collegio Reporters
Pittsburg State University has broken the 2009 fall enrollment record of 7,275 students, with 7,289 enrolled st
udents this fall. The number was announced at the end of September.
The Kansas Board of Regents reported that total public university enrollment declined slightly to 100,885 students.
At PSU, student enrollment wasn’t the only number that jumped this year. The number of minority students enrolled jumped 16 percent this year, and nearly 36 percent in the last two years.
A spike in diversity
This jump in enrollment is evidence that Pittsburg State University is the first choice for a growing diverse mix of students, and for increasing numbers of students who reside from the Gorilla Advantage counties.
“Increasing diversity is one of our goals and it is clear that we are having success,” said Bill Ivy, associate vice president for enrollment management and student success. “We still have work to do, but we are clearly headed in the right direction.”
Pitt State’s 2012 headcount states that 868 enrolled students, nearly 12 percent of the overall population, are minorities.
Ivy says that enrollment has also grown because of students who live in the Gorilla Advantage counties in surrounding states. Gorilla Advantage counties in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Missouri offer students the ability to attend PSU at the in-state tuition rate. This past year, enrollment from students in these counties grew 6.4 percent, and nearly 21 percent of the student body (1,508 students) come from these counties.
Ivy attributed a huge part of that growth to investing in new areas to the admissions department and counselors who travel to high schools to promote Pittsburg State University. However, Ivy says some of the best ambassadors are the students themselves.
“Some of our best recruiters are students who tell their friends in their home communities about the great education they’re getting at PSU, how much they love the campus and their teachers and how happy they are that they chose Pitt State,” Ivy said. “They have a credibility with other students that ambassadors and counselors can’t get, with first-hand experience.”
Could it be too much?
Incoming PSU students have been filling general education courses with massive numbers in record time. This has caused some students to feel a bit cramped in classes held in rooms that may not be equipped to handle the influx.
“I feel like I learn the material better and get more done in the smaller classes,” said Hunter Luna, sophomore in criminal justice. “As for large classes, like my world regional geography class, I feel like it has hindered the learning experience just a bit. That’s mainly because no one likes listening to someone talk for an hour without interaction.”
Darren Botello-Samson, assistant professor of political science, agrees that the larger classes brought upon by the ever-increasing student population can be detrimental to the learning process.
“I prefer to teach smaller, more intimate courses,” said Botello-Samson. “I think it really is essential for something like politics. You can’t really engage politics without some degree of questioning basic assumptions and that’s harder to do in a large impersonal setting.”
According to Debbie Greve, registrar, the annual increase in students could eventually lead to issues with sustainability and classroom utilization.
“If a classroom can’t contain the capacity of that class, we would assist them in finding another location,” said Greve. “But as the semester draws closer, that becomes more of an issue because of that domino effect. We may have to take another class out of their classroom in order to find a suitable size for multiple classes, in order to let them grow.”
Greve says instances when classes outgrow their facilities happens more often than one might think.
“We get those calls from the chairman and they’re being asked by advisers, ‘Hey, I need another seat or another chair for a student,’” Greve said.
Potential for reassessment
According to Botello-Samson, the university will soon have some serious decisions to make if the student population continues to grow at its current rate.
“In an uncertain political environment, in which funding has the potential to be held hostage by political powers, how do we invest in personnel growth?” said Botello-Samson. “What sort of digital growth can we invest in? Or do we change the nature of the university and become much more reliant on distance learning and online courses? It does have the potential to fundamentally change how we change and how we learn.”