December 12, 2003
Cowley listed as one of fastest growing community colleges in U.S.
An analysis of U.S. Department of Education data indicates what many people in south-central Kansas have known for years: Cowley County Community College is one of the fastest growing community colleges in the nation.
In its Dec. 8, 2003, edition, Community College Week listed Cowley as the 33rd fastest growing public two-year college in the country among schools with a student enrollment between 2,500 and 4,999 students.
According to the data, Cowley's enrollment increased 13.4 percent in total students, from 4,106 in fall 2001 to 4,656 in fall 2002. However, if 20th-day enrollment figures were used, Cowley increased 15 percent during the same period, from 4,044 students in fall 2001 to 4,656. That would have placed Cowley 24th on the list.
Whatever the number, Cowley Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs, Sheree Utash, said several factors contributed to the large increase and subsequent recognition.
“For several years, the Southside Education Center has had an impact on our growth,” Utash said. “And lately, the development of our online classes and our whole distance learning also has increased.”
Online full-time enrollment has increased from just 15 FTE in fall 2000 to 150 FTE in fall 2003. Online saw a whopping 302 percent increase from fall 2002.
The Southside Education Center in Wichita has seen large enrollment increases since officially opening in fall 1995. In fall 2003, Southside had a full-time enrollment of 1,296, up 12 percent from fall 2002.
“We have the ability to increase enrollment even more at Southside and in our distance education programs,” Utash said. “Those are two areas we can look at for continued future growth.”
Enrollment on Cowley's main campus in Arkansas City increased 6 percent from fall 2001 to fall 2002, and another 3 percent from fall 2002 to fall 2003.
“I think that's directly attributed to the quality of the instruction in the classroom, the quality of programs and the quality of student life we're offering our students,” Utash said.
The economy, Utash said, also has played a role in Cowley's enrollment increase, primarily in fall 2002.
“We had more laid off workers at that point in time than this fall,” she said.
Cowley also has seen a significant increase in the number of international students. Utash said the college went from 45 international students in fall 2002 to 91 this fall. And those figures don't include many guest international students from Wichita State University and Butler County Community College.
“We have a combination of so many things working well in so many places, and that really contributes to the overall success of growing,” Utash said.
But with growth comes challenges.
“We're really being proactive to meet the challenges that are an outcome of growth,” she said.
Utash praised Cowley employees for contributing to the school's distinction as one of the fastest growing community colleges in the nation.
“To be spotlighted like this speaks very, very highly of our faculty and of our staff,” Utash said. “The size of our classes and our faculty involvement with our students makes us grow. The way our staff displays customer service and puts our students first in all areas speaks highly of everybody's efforts at Cowley.”