Courtesy of Washburn Institute of Technology
As schools across the nation face the challenge of low enrollment brought by COVID-19 pandemic, Washburn Institute of Technology, the technical school associated with Washburn University sees a promising trend that leaves administration feeling hopeful.
The Kansas Board of Regents has reported decreasing enrollment in higher education throughout the state during the pandemic, a decline noticed by the technical school’s administration.
“During COVID, and across the country, we saw declines in higher education,” said Michael Strohschein, interim dean at Washburn Institute of Technology. “For us, we had reduced enrollments like every other institution.”
Even with the demand for healthcare professionals during the height of the pandemic, as the school hosts a popular array of medical programs, enrollment remained on the decline.
“We had a need in our hospitals, and our hospital systems. But those enrollments weren’t coming in because of a lot of factors,” Strohschein said. “The unemployment benefits were paying more than a full-time job for a lot of individuals.”
However, Washburn Tech saw an encouraging increase in numbers last semester, with enrollment in fall 2021 up to 9% from fall 2020.
“If you look at it like a chart, we went down, but we’re on our way back up,” said Steven Bryant, assistant dean and director of student services at Washburn Institute of Technology. “This is a good factor showing us that we are hopefully climbing out of that pandemic effect on enrollment. These numbers are optimistic to us.”
The 9% increase is impressive to administration, as enrollment data from fall 2019 to fall 2020 saw around a 25% decline from 1,364 students to 1,103 during the first semester after the pandemic began.
“I think that is a clear showing of the pandemic’s effect on enrollment, because fall ’19, no pandemic. Fall ’20, global pandemic,” Bryant said. “But it’s good that now we’re seeing an almost 10% jump in enrollment this past fall.”
Although these trends are positive signs for the technical school, administration expects that it will take time for enrollment to return to pre-pandemic levels.
“We rebounded from the COVID year last fall, but not from the prior year before,” Strohschein said. “It’ll take us a good year or two to rebound back.”
Until then, administration remains optimistic about the next school year and how much, if any, improvement they will see in enrollment.
“It’ll be more of a story to tell when we have another year under our belt, and hopefully, those are continuing to go up,” Bryant said. “But right now, it’s positive for us.”
Only time will tell what becomes of Washburn Tech’s enrollment trends. For now, it appears that the technical institution is reclaiming its popularity for those interested in furthering their education.
Edited by: Ellie Walker, Simran Shrestha