K-State’s battle against enrollment declines is expected to hit a turning point in 2020, should university officials’ plans succeed.
Student body headcount at K-State hit a 20-year low in fall 2019, the latest semester in a five-year skid in enrollment from a record high 24,766 in 2014. K-State has pointed to several reasons for that decline, including increased costs across all of higher education, fewer international students and fewer Kansas students pursuing degrees at four-year institutions.
In response, K-State officials have worked with an enrollment consulting agency to put into place new enrollment management and marketing programs. The university repurposed several vacated administrative roles to more directly address enrollment, and new marketing strategies are focusing on out-of-state students who might not be familiar with what K-State is.
The university also shifted its financial aid strategy and did away with its largest merit-based scholarship, the Putnam Scholarship. Those funds will be reallocated to consider both need and merit in what officials said is a more balanced manner.
President Richard Myers said in his 2019 State of the University address that K-State was built to hold its 2014 enrollment of 24,766 students, and his goal is to return the university to capacity.
Early indicators for the fall 2020 freshman class, including college applications and acceptance rates, are promising, but only time will tell if that interest turns into actual enrollment. If it does, expect to see more out-of-state license plates on Manhattan’s streets.
School districts’ bond projects
Both the Manhattan-Ogden and Riley County school districts have big years of construction ahead of them.
Following a year of planning, design discussions and budgeting, several of Manhattan-Ogden’s $129.5 million in bond projects will start construction.
Construction already started on $1 million in renovation and maintenance projects at the Keith Noll Maintenance Center and $7.3 million in expansion and renovations at the College Hill Early Learning Center. Those projects should finish by September and November respectively. Amanda Arnold Elementary’s $226,000 bond project to improve and expand its parking lot is complete.
The school district will start work on the $20.5 million Oliver Brown Elementary in Blue Township in February.
The school board voted to name the school after the namesake of the 1953 Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education, which ruled segregation unconstitutional in the nation’s schools. The school will open in August 2021 and will have a capacity of 475 students.
Expansion projects to add sixth grade wings and other improvements at Anthony and Eisenhower middle schools will start in the spring and should be complete in time for the 2021-2022 school year. Those projects will collectively cost $33.9 million.
In the summer, the school district will start its projects at Frank Bergman and Lee elementary schools.
Bergman’s construction will only be exterior work in 2020, with the rest of the $3.5 million in security, maintenance and classroom improvements starting in 2021. The $945,000 Lee project to add bus lanes, a dedicated kindergarten playground and an expanded parking lot, among other maintenance projects, will finish by September.
An $8.4 million project to expand and renovate Eugene Field Early Learning Center starts in October and wraps up a year later.
One of the district’s largest projects, $29.4 million in additions and maintenance at Manhattan High, starts in September. That project will add a wing and bring the district’s ninth grade students to the building to create a traditional, 9-12 grade campus. District officials are in preliminary discussions on the future of the to-be-vacated east campus.
Projects at the district’s other school will start later.
The Riley County school district will also start on $15 million in projects at its high school and grade school buildings.
The grade school will see new pick-up and drop-off lanes for parents, new classrooms, a storm-rated gym with restrooms and locker rooms, and a new elevator.
Following a semester after it led all state higher education institutions in student body growth by percentage, Manhattan Area Technical College will try to finalize a deal to buy a Wamego building and create a new off-campus center.
President Jim Genandt said the center is part of the college’s plan to keep the ball rolling on MATC’s recent growth. He said the school has had to turn away students from its nursing and welding programs because of capacity issues.
The Wamego Center, once finalized, will focus on high school students in Pottawatomie County and offer introductory courses for students to explore technical careers. Genandt said the building, which would not be a new campus, will not necessarily duplicate the college’s Manhattan classrooms.
Looking at the next five years, Genandt said the college has plans for new buildings at its Manhattan campus. One building would offer a dedicated space for nursing and other health professions, while the other building would allow the school to expand its construction and manufacturing programs, as well as new programs in plumbing and electrician training.
Three years of construction on the $1.25 billion National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility wraps up in late 2020, with the Department of Homeland Security transferring management and operation of the facility to the U.S. Department of Agriculture in December.
Once complete, the facility will be the country’s leading facility on studying and developing protection against serious animal diseases.
Officials expect to hire about 80% of the facility’s 400-person workforce by August, which will mean adding another 100 employees in various administrative, laboratory and support positions. In October, Alfonso Clavijo was hired as the facility’s first director.
In any case, the facility won’t be fully operational for another three years, while staff develops and creates safety protocols for the top-security facility.