At a retreat earlier this month, Barton Community College trustees talked about the future of traditional campuses. Online education and shifts in demographics are changing the playing field for all Kansas college, Barton President Dr. Carl Heilman noted.
Dean of Institutional Effectiveness Charles Perkins said our population is not growing, but the demographics are shifting. By 2032, the only growth in the Golden Belt could be younger Hispanic males and females.
“Even though they’re young, they’re buying homes and they’re staying here,” Perkins said. Fifty percent of the people in this demographic are homeowners.
In 1990, only 3 percent of Barton County’s official population was Hispanic, Perkins said. By 2014 it was 14 percent and the estimate for 2025 is 20 percent.
“We’re in a position where our Hispanic population is going up and more of those residents want to attend college,” Perkins said. “Our growth area (on the Barton Campus) is going to be Hispanic.”
Vice President of Student Services Angela Maddy said the college continues to recruit about the same percent of graduating high school seniors as in previous years, but the size of graduating classes is declining.
“We've educated Barton County,” Perkins said, but it has a stagnant population.
However, the Barton County campus isn’t BCC’s only venue. Thanks to its presence at Fort Riley and Fort Leavenworth, Barton’s overall population is mostly white males. And, growth in past years has mostly been in online enrollment. None of these help enrollment on the traditional campus.
Head-count vs FTE
It is difficult to generate on-campus enrollment, Heilman said. The number of individual students may produce a high head-count, but they aren’t enrolled in as many credit-hours as before. Colleges measure head-count and full-time equivalency (FTE), which is the number of credit-hours students are enrolled in divided by the number of hours a full-time student would enroll in. If one full-time student is enrolled in 15 hours, it would be the equivalent of five students each taking a three-hour course.
The traditional students on campus are 18- and 19-year-olds, but that group is dropping in FTE. The challenge is not just to draw more people to campus, but to get them to take more classes.
One way the college has done this is to bring more athletes to campus. When the wrestling program was started, college officials said it would pay for itself with the added full-time enrollment. Athletic programs, along with band and vocal music classes, are “holding their own,” Perkins said.
In the ongoing effort to attract more full-time students, the college has decreased the tuition fees charged to out-of-state students.
The next step may, administrators said, may be some exploratory outreach to bolster international student enrollment. The goal is to continue to offset the local tax burden with the additional tuition and fees.
After the meeting, the Great Bend Tribune asked Dr. Heilman and BCC Public Relations Director Brandon Steinert to clarify the enrollment situation, in light of the increase in student housing in recent years. The response was:
“On-campus enrollment is down slightly in terms of credit hours, but some or all of that can be attributed to our usual face-to-face students taking more online classes. While our credit-hour numbers are down in relation to how many are face-to-face, that doesn’t necessarily mean we have fewer students here physically.
“We had 174 seniors on campus Wednesday (Nov. 15) morning and afternoon, which is a record turnout for our annual Senior Day and 100 more than attended last year. Our population of student athletes on campus has grown each year and we’re looking at other opportunities students might find valuable, like considering the possibility of a bowling program in fall of 2019.”