LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The percentage of Kansas high school graduates who attend state universities has fallen in recent years, and the schools are considering how to stop that decline and make up lost revenue.
In 2010, 55% of Kansas high school graduates enrolled at a state higher education institution, but by 2017 — the most recent year for which data is available — that figure had dropped to 50.3%, according to a May report by the Kansas Board of Regents.
“It’s certainly a concern,” Dennis Mullin, chair of the Regents, told The Lawrence Journal-World . “We better figure out ways to bring people into higher education.”
A healthy economy could be behind the fall. Economic growth leads to more jobs available for people with only a high school diploma, according to Elaine Frisbie, the Regents’ vice president for finance and administration.
Mullin suggested the cost of attending university also acts as a deterrent.
“The stronger economy has really taken away people who were in higher education,” he said. “They say, ‘Hey, I spend $25,000 on education or I can get a job for $45,000 a year.’ And they couldn’t do that a couple years ago.”
Shifting demographics could also play a part. The Hispanic population has grown significantly in southwestern Kansas, but Mullin said higher education is not always popular in that community due to cost, a need to support the family, and the desire to maintain a traditional family unit in one place.
The University of Kansas has taken steps to balance the loss of revenue from homegrown students by targeting out-of-state enrollment. Those students pay higher tuition and their numbers help keep the university enrollment level steady.
“KU took the strategic tack to make the university known nationally, recruit academically successful students and help them succeed to graduation once they are here,” university spokeswoman Erinn Barcomb-Peterson said.
Regents took it a step further, suggesting the higher tuition paid by out-of-state students could allow schools to decrease costs for students from Kansas pursuing higher education in their home state, thus boosting homegrown enrollment.
“We have to reach out beyond our borders,” Mullin said. “We’re going to have to draw people into the state in hopes that they are going to stay. … They are helping subsidize Kansas students.”