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K-State at Salina


Salina campus' enrollment increases 'miraculous' for small school

Don't tell K-State football coach Bill Snyder, but Matt Melvin doesn't think the football program's turnaround is the greatest miracle at the university.

By Michelle Hall


Matt Melvin points instead to the major improvements of the College of Technology and Aviation, housed in Salina, about an hour down the road from Manhattan's main campus. Until recently, Melvin was the assistant dean and director of college advancement at the Salina campus.

And the school's improvements, especially in the area of enrollment growth, do seem pretty miraculous. Over the past 12 years enrollment has doubled at the school. Since 1990, the school has nearly doubled their total enrollment numbers and has more than doubled the number of full-time students.

Melvin says he sees various reasons for the enrollment increases. First of all, he said Dennis Kuhlman, who became the school's dean in 1997, has put a priority on stabilizing enrollment.

"The emphasis is now on recruitment and retention," Melvin said. "Before, the focus was only on recruitment." He said they stress taking care of students the entire way through their collegiate careers.

Administrators have also put much time and energy into enrollment management infrastructure -- including people and systems -- and have been able to hire gifted people to fill those positions, Melvin said.

"At a small school, what it boils down to are the people," Melvin said. "At a small school, if you have a bad hire, they have nowhere to go. Our admissions representatives on the other hand are passionate and professional."

The new personnel have included those in residential life, student life, career services and academic advising, in addition to admissions representatives.

"We've been able to hire critical people to meet the students' needs," Melvin said. He said their passionate staff and faculty, in turn, make the students comfortable.

"They are treated differently than at other flight schools," he said. "The staff is more personal, more helpful." Many small-town students love the small-school atmosphere. The school also offers programs that focus on careers and jobs post-graduation; their students tend to be very career oriented, Melvin said.

"We get great kids," he said.

Perhaps the most unbelievable aspect of this turnaround is the fact that they pulled it off without a jolt of state funding.

"No money for advertising," Melvin lamented. "No money for mass marketing."

Melvin did say he believes dramatic increases in enrollment at K-State Salina may taper off, due in large part to the economy and overall outlook of higher education. The aviation and technology industries both have struggled since Sept. 11, 2001, forcing K-State Salina to examine new ways to enhance learning and career opportunities for students.

But even if enrollment numbers stabilize somewhat, K-State's College of Technology and Aviation is still much better off than it was only 10 years ago.

"I don't think the football team is the greatest miracle at K-State," Melvin said. "We did it without any extra dollars."

Winter 2002