On Thursday, Emporia State announced it was planning a party to celebrate enrollment figures. The announcement -- and the celebration -- were warranted.
Emporia State announced a headcount of 6,033 students, up 166 students from fall 2012. The 2.83-percent increase is the highest among all Regents universities and the only one for universities above a one-percent jump.
Calling the enrollment trend part of "the new normal," University President Dr. Michael Shonrock credited the Emporia community for its support of ESU activities, including recruitment efforts like the Hornet Telethon and the Postcard-A-Palooza.
ESU had several indicators of higher enrollment well before classes began, including higher interest in meal plans and off-campus housing. Once classes started, numbers of new graduate students increased nearly 20 percent and new freshman enrollment jumped almost 12 percent. Student retention also jumped four percent to 73 percent.
A further breakdown shows the elementary education undergraduate program grew 12 percent, while the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences grew 43 percent thanks to a big increase in the online math masters degree program.
Roughly 100 people attended the enrollment party at Plumb Hall on Friday, including Emporia Rep. Peggy Mast, who was roundly criticized for her vote supporting the fiscal 2014 and 2015 budgets that resulted in a loss of nearly $3 million in funds for Emporia State. Mast has since said she would have handled things differently if given a chance to do things over, and on Friday she said she plans to support initiatives that help the university grow.
Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. Jim Williams says the momentum currently felt on campus will continue even if funding remains an issue. University leaders have an opportunity to make that point clear next month when certain lawmakers take a bus tour of ESU. Shonrock says he plans to continue stressing the importance of fully funding higher education.