Preliminary enrollment figures released last week show that Cowley College continues to cope with enrollment declines.

Cowley saw the equivalent of 164 fewer full-time students enroll this fall compared to last fall, according to the Kansas Board of Regents.

Cowley’s fall enrollment stood at 1,750, compared to 1,914 at the same point in the fall of 2018. The 8.56-percent drop was the steepest decline among all community colleges except Coffeyville.

Cowley addressed the fall numbers in a press release that otherwise touted sub-categories of enrollment for the previous academic school year.

“As for fall 2019 preliminary numbers, there were areas that the college saw a slight decrease in enrollment,” the released states. “College administrators and enrollment services are working diligently to find ways to combat this issue.”

The preliminary number is a snapshot of students actively enrolled in classes on the census day, which was Sept. 10.

Because of this criteria, Debbie Phelps, Cowley College’s executive director of institutional effectiveness, said 117 student records were not included.

Matt Keith, a spokesman for the Kansas Board of Regents, said the figures are not a complete enrollment picture, but they use the same census date for all schools.

Enrollment figures are important as a measure of stature and dollars for higher education. State aide to schools is based on them.

Cowley also saw a dip — although slight — in the number of full-time equivalent students for full 2018-19 school year, compared to previous school year. The full-year figures are considered complete figures.

Cowley has struggled with enrollment declines for several years, dropping from 3,199 full-time equivalent students in 2013 to 2,002 last school year.

Cowley is not alone in fighting enrollment battles — community colleges often see a drop in students during an expanding economy as people enter the workforce instead of train for jobs.

Statewide, community colleges have seen a 12.4-percent decline since 2013. But Cowley’s drop has been much steeper, at 37.4 percent.

In its press release, Cowley noted that the decline in students is leading the college to cut expenses, with August showing a 15.22-percent reduction in spending, compared to the same time last fiscal year.

Efforts to improve enrollment include revising recruitment fliers, developing more pathways with universities, and creating partnerships designed to keep students, such as the Accelerated Pathway to Teaching with Newman University and the Finish with Friend business pathway.

And the school’s business office has updated processes to improve how students and third-party vendors pay their bill, the release states.

Dr. Gloria Walker, the vice president of finance and administration, also continues to monitor the college’s budget as it relates to further decreases in students and credit hours.

She said adjustments will be made to budgeted areas, such as adjunct and overload salaries for faculty. Custodial services will be reorganized and travel costs reduced, according to the release. More video conferencing will be sued and capital outlay spending will decrease.


Encouraging signs

Amid the difficulties, the college is touting gains in certain areas of enrollment and achievement.

The press release states the school saw a 13.3-percent increase in associate degrees and certificates awarded during the past school year.

It also notes that the Board of Regents information shows Cowley served more than 3,000 Kansas residents, with an 8-percent year-over-year increase in students residing in Cowley County.

More first-time, full-time freshmen attended orientation than the year before, and the school saw increases in technical training, military students and high school students, compared to the 2017-18 academic year.

And roster size increased in baseball, men’s and women’s soccer, and wrestling.

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