Barton bucks national enrollment trends, boasts growth for sixth straight year

Barton Wordmark

July, 2014

Story by Brandon Steinert

Barton Community College has seen steady growth for six years. The institution as a whole drew nearly 4,300 full-time-equivalent (FTE) students in 2013-14, which is about a 4-percent increase over last year, and a 32-percent increase since the growth trend began in 2007-08, according to the full-time equivalent (FTE) data gathered at the close of the spring semester. Note: Figures subject to slight changes until data “freeze” date in August. This information is a reflection of the current outlook.

About FTE

FTE is the most widely accepted metric to measure enrollment. This is calculated by taking the total credit-hours provided and dividing by 15 credit-hours per semester, which is the average course load for a full time student. This standard allows Barton to see how it’s doing relative to other colleges and past semesters. While the FTE formula reveals 4,300 full-time students, the total number of students who took at least one course with Barton in the 13-14 school year was nearly 17,600.

Sources of growth

The average growth rate since 07-08 has been 4 percent per year.

“Barton’s faculty and staff are progressive, and have done a wonderful job of identifying new opportunities to serve our communities and address industry needs,” Barton President Dr. Carl Heilman said. “We have continually expanded our online learning platform, BARTonline. We doubled the enrollment at our recently established campus at Fort Leavenworth and are taking advantage of unique opportunities as a designated Occupational Safety & Health Administration safety training provider. We are fortunate to have such a forward-thinking culture throughout our campuses. That culture has been, and will be, the driving force behind our growth.”

As has been the trend in recent years, BARTonline, Barton’s online learning component, was responsible for a bulk of the growth, contributing almost 81.5 of the 164 additional students (FTE). BARTonline has grown by leaps and bounds each year with an impressive 202.9-percent increase since 07-08. It now serves more than 1,600 students (FTE) across the state and beyond. A total non-duplicated headcount reveals that nearly 7,000 individuals enrolled in BARTonline classes in the 2013-14 school year. The growth of BARTonline has been nearly 20 percent per year for several consecutive years, but the dramatic rate appears to be tapering off.

“BARTonline continues to offer today’s students the quality courses they demand, at prices they can afford, and all without having to uproot their entire life to improve their future,” Dean of Distance Learning Ange Sullivan said. “Because of this, military, non-traditional and a variety of other students can leverage our fully online courses into the education and degree they need in today’s world.”

Barton County Campus

The Barton County campus has showed slight drops in enrollment in recent years, at about 3 percent per year. However, this trend also appears to be tapering off, as this year’s decrease was only about 1 percent.

These numbers fit the trend of Barton’s own traditional students taking some regular coursework online.

Barton’s many career and technical programs are also growing in popularity. The college currently offers more than 25 career programs. Among the most well-recognized are Nursing, Early Childhood Education, Medical Assistant and Business Administrative Technology.

The Workforce Training and Community Education division has been a progressive and proactive asset to the college, adding new programs each year based on the needs of local industry and the workforce.  Some relatively new programs include computer-aided drafting, manufacturing skills, business, and management and leadership with an emphasis in entrepreneurial studies. A new networking program is also in the works.

Fort Riley and Fort Leavenworth campuses

Barton has offered classes to servicemen and women and their families through its Fort Riley campus since 1984, and is the prominent higher education provider on post.

The Fort Riley campus has historically been one of Barton’s fastest-growing entities, showing a 21.5 percent increase in enrollment compared to seven years ago. This year, the campus showed a slight increase in FTE of about 1.7 percent.

Dean of Military Academic Services for Fort Riley and Fort Leavenworth, Ashley Arnold, said the trend is likely to continue growing at a steady pace. 

“We have units deploying shortly to various regions around the world,” she said. “This will impact our enrollments of face-to-face classes with active duty soldiers. However, we expect to see growth due to an increase in unit classes, which is where active duty soldiers take classes as a group. We also expect to see an increase in enrollment from soldiers who have just returned home from a nine-month deployment to Afghanistan. Family members of service members, civilians, veterans and retirees continue to fill our classrooms each cycle. We are honored to educate such an amazing group of people and watch them succeed while they are here at Fort Riley and Fort Leavenworth.”

The Fort Leavenworth campus is a new addition to the institution. It began in the 2011-12 school year with 14 students (FTE). Enrollment increased dramatically the first year. This year is no different, as the campus showed an increase of 108 percent over the previous school year, bringing the total to 223 students (FTE) in 2013-14.

OSHA Training, Hazardous Materials & Emergency Services Training Institute

Barton’s Grandview Plaza campus, located near Junction City, showed a drop in participation with 29 fewer students (FTE) compared to last year. The total FTE has remained flat compared to 2007-08.  

However, enrollment isn’t necessarily the primary measure of success for the Grandview Plaza location. Many of the courses and programs offered are non-credit. More than 92 students participated in 10 different non-credit courses in 2013-14.

A great deal of attention has been devoted to the campus’ recent designation as an Occupational Safety & Health Administration Training Institute Education Center and the opportunities that affords.

The Hazardous Materials and Emergency Services training options are made available across the state and have been utilized for years by dozens of municipalities and state government organizations for training employees on emergency management and handling waste safely.

These services are also offered to the military at almost a dozen forts across the country, from Fort Leavenworth and Fort Riley here in Kansas, to Fort Knox, Ky. and other major military installations.