Pitt State freshmen class increases for first time in six years 

Preliminary 20th day enrollment figures released by the Kansas Board of Regents show an increase in new freshmen over last year — the first time there’s been an increase in new freshmen in six years.   

In addition to all being members of the Class of 2025, the 834 new freshmen share a common bond: They ended their high school education amidst a pandemic, and started their university education as the world began moving out of the pandemic and back into in-person classes and activities.  

But they share unique qualities, too. 

They represent several countries, including India and Spain. And, they represent 15 other states as more and more students begin taking advantage of Pittsburg State’s Gorilla Advantage program: they come from Arkansas, California, Colorado, Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas. 

One hundred and forty-one of them are considered first generation college students.  

The gender split is nearly equal. But the group shows diversity, with 137 identifying as persons of color, including American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, Black, Hispanic, and two or more races. Deatrea Rose, Pittsburg State’s new senior diversity officer, has doubled down on efforts to reach marginalized groups and hopes to see that number increase in years to come. 

The Class of 2025 has chosen to pursue degrees in a diverse array of programs in Pittsburg State’s four colleges: The College of Arts & Sciences welcomed 36 percent of them. The Kelce College of Business welcomed 11 percent. The College of Education welcomed 14 percent. The College of Technology welcomed 28 percent. And the Exploratory Studies Program, for students who begin school undeclared — welcomed 11 percent. 

Not all of them are 2021 high school graduates; 27 graduated in 2020 and waited until the pandemic slowed a bit to enroll, six are 2019 high school graduates, and eight graduated in or prior to 2018. 

There’s also more good news when it comes to international students coming to Pittsburg State: there’s been an increase in both new undergraduate and new graduate international students — welcome news to Aaron Hurt, director of International Programs & Services, after he saw the pandemic stall international applications last year. 

Admission efforts 

Especially heartening, said Admission Director Scott Donaldson, is that the application rate for undergraduate domestic students is up 18 percent this year. 

That rate, and the increase in freshmen who enrolled, is especially impressive, he said, given that last year the pandemic restricted recruiters at many high schools and most college fairs were moved online or cancelled. 

Among the many drivers: Eliminating the application fee and efforts by Donaldson and his team, in collaboration with the IT Department and University Marketing & Communication, to reach students in new ways during the pandemic, including virtual campus tours, individual Zoom meetings, online chats with recruiters, and academic departmental videos. 

Career outlook 

Jaime Dalton, the university’s new director of Career Services, said the job outlook is very, very good for these freshmen if they continue on the path to graduation in 2025. 

“Employers are eager to fill positions right now and will be into the foreseeable future. We are hearing from companies throughout the region and across the country that they need more qualified workers. They love our alumni and they are very invested in hiring Pittsburg State graduates. We can’t turn out enough graduates to meet the demand quickly enough,” she said.  

What this means for incoming students: “they’re almost certain to get a job offer — and often months before they graduate,” she said. 


University-wide, headcount enrollment is 6,017, with full-time equivalency enrollment at 5,141 — down 6 percent from last year. According to enrollment numbers from the Kansas Board of Regents, Pittsburg State isn’t alone in that decline; across the six state universities, there was a decrease of 2.4 percent. 

Overall, the system experienced a 1.1 percent decline in FTE enrollment since last year. There are 6,509 fewer students attending Kansas institutions this year than five years ago, in 2016. 

KBOR Chair Cheryl Harrison-Lee said the state must reverse that trend to meet workforce needs. 

“We can’t emphasize enough the importance of a college degree when it comes to having a qualified workforce of our community, our state, and our nation,” said Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Howard Smith. “We’re glad to see an increase in freshmen this year, and hope that the trend continues.” 

The number of returning seniors set to graduate in either December 2021 or May 2022 should help, Donaldson noted: That class totals 1,469 students. 

About the Kansas Board of Regents 

KBOR is a nine-member governing board of the state’s six universities and the statewide coordinating board for the state’s 32 public higher education institutions. 

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