Since peaking in 2014, K-State’s student body has continued to dip to a 20-year low this semester, and the most affected student groups in the decline have been white, black and international students, a Mercury analysis of enrollment data shows.
Enrollment at K-State’s Manhattan, Salina and Olathe campuses fell from an all-time high of 24,766 in 2014 to 21,719 this semester, representing a decrease of 3,047, or 12.3%.
K-State has yet to turn around the five-year trend in declining enrollment, but provost Chuck Taber said the university’s strategic enrollment plan — which includes three enrollment administrators, a consulting group and new enrollment management practices — is expected to kick next year.
In September, Taber pointed to four drivers of the enrollment decline. Fewer Kansas high school students are pursuing any kind of higher education, and in general, higher education has become expensive. Fewer transfer students are coming into the university, and K-State hasn’t been immune to a national decrease in the number of international students, either.
K-State’s enrollment report shows the university’s headcount on the 20th day of fall classes. The university breaks enrollment down by ethnic group, country of origin (if international), state of origin and county of origin. Students with Kansas residency status still make up the largest portion of K-State’s student body, although that percentage has continued to slip in recent years as the university pushes for more out-of-state enrollment.
White student enrollment decreased by 2,110 students, or 11.4%, to 16,439 this semester, while black student enrollment also decreased by 253, or 26.5%, to 701 students. Hawaiian or Pacific students decreased by 11, or 30.6%, to 25.
Hispanic student enrollment was the only group with a significant increase in enrollment, showing an increase of 168 students, or 11.8%, over that five-year span.
Asian student enrollment was relatively flat, increasing by 10 students, or 2.6%, to 391 students in 2019. American Indian students saw nine more students, or a 9.6% increase to 103, this year.
Multiracial students increased by 28, or 4%, to 723. Students who did not specify a race or ethnicity decreased by 112, or 28.6%, to 279.
International student enrollment fell by over a quarter, with a drop of 561 students, or 28.2%, from 1,987 in 2014 to 1,426 in 2019.
In recent years, Chinese students have made up the largest portion of K-State’s international student body, but they’ve also seen the largest overall decrease. Chinese student enrollment fell by over half, or 53.5%, from 898 in 2014 to 418 this year. That’s in line with a national trend in fewer Chinese students, which some higher education experts have attributed to more competition from other countries and poorer relations between the U.S. and China.
The next most represented country at K-State is Saudi Arabia. However, that group has also seen a moderate decrease in students, falling from 153 students in 2014 to 138 in 2019 (9.8%). Indian students made up the third largest international group, and they decreased from 116 students in 2014 to 109 this year (6%).
Paraguayan students have become a significant international group at K-State in recent years, increasing from 60 in 2014 to 100 in 2018. Paraguayan enrollment fell to 78 in 2019, although that was still a 30% increase from 2014. Iranian students also saw an increase from 33 students in 2014 to 56 this semester (69.7% increase).
Out-of-state enrollment, meaning enrollment from U.S. territory outside of Kansas, decreased over the five-year span, but only by about half of the overall enrollment decrease.
In 2014, 5,354 students enrolled from out of state, but that figure decreased by 351, or -6.6%, to 5,003 in 2019. Still, this year’s out-of-state enrollment showed signs of returning to the five-year high, as 159 more out-of-state students enrolled this year compared to fall 2018.
Over the last five years, New York students were the group that saw the most significant decrease, falling from 257 in 2014 to just 84 in 2019 (67.3%). Colorado and California also saw decreases, although they were smaller. Colorado student enrollment fell from 328 in 2014 to 289 in 2019 (11.9%), while Californian enrollment fell 8% from 377 in 2014 to 347 this year.
Texas students, one of the largest state delegations at K-State, saw a 5.4% decrease from 537 in 2014 to 508 this year.
However, other states, like Missouri, Nebraska and Illinois, saw increases, although those increases were not enough to stem the tide of decreasing out-of-state enrollment. Missouri students grew by 81 to 1,037 in 2019 (8.5%), although this year’s enrollment was 302 students, or 22.6%, lower than in 2018.
Nebraska students by 54 to 363 (17.5%), and Illinois students by 17 to 339 (5.3%).
Next week, the Mercury will examine the five-year trend in enrollment by Kansas county.