Latest enrollment numbers and challenges ahead
Chancellor Doug Girod sent the following message to University of Kansas faculty and staff Thursday, Oct. 1.

Chancellor Doug Girod sent the following message to University of Kansas faculty and staff Thursday, Oct. 1.




I write to share a few thoughts about our annual 20th day enrollment numbers, which were released today in coordination with the Kansas Board of Regents, and to describe how recent enrollment trends will impact KU both in the short run and in the years ahead.


First, our overall enrollment fell 2.8 percent this year – a decrease of 804 students – due largely to declines in international students and first-time freshmen. Specifically, more than half of the decrease stems from a drop in international students (down 18.1 percent), while more than a third of the decrease stems from a drop in first-time freshmen (down 7.2 percent), which includes a 29.3 percent decline in international freshmen.


Additionally, today’s data show the one-year retention rate for last year’s freshmen is 85.7 percent – the second-highest rate in KU history – while the two-year retention rate for the 2018 freshmen is an all-time high 77.1 percent.


Given the hardships the pandemic has presented students and families – and the uncertainty it has created in the higher education market – we are pleased to have experienced such a modest enrollment decline. To have limited the decline to just 2.8 percent, and to have maintained historically high retention rates, is a testament to the great work you’ve done to help students continue their coursework during these turbulent times. To put it simply, we exceeded our expectations and outperformed many of our peer institutions, thanks to you.


While we are pleased with this year’s enrollment, the reality is the university – and in particular the Lawrence campus – still faces unprecedented fiscal challenges that necessitate painful cost-savings measures in the months ahead. In the short term, we need to address the current fiscal year deficit, which we previously projected to be $120 million. While we likely will be able to revise that projection down due to our better-than-expected enrollment, the current fiscal year challenge remains substantial. We will provide a revised projected deficit soon.


Beyond the current fiscal year, the decline in international students and freshmen presents ongoing revenue shortages that will follow us for years. When freshmen enrollment falls, that isn’t a one-year tuition hit; rather, we lose tuition we would have received for multiple years. Additionally, the decline in international students disproportionately impacts tuition revenue because these students pay the higher non-resident rate.


In summary, while we should pause to celebrate today’s enrollment data, we must be mindful of the unprecedented financial challenges we continue to face. As I’ve written before, KU will need to adopt new business models, reorganize and restructure, and implement cost reductions. All options – including furloughs, layoffs, and salary reductions – must be considered for us to manage through this. The decisions ahead will be hard, but they are necessary to ensure the long-term health of the university.


Thank you for your efforts to help students become and remain Jayhawks. It is, quite simply, the most important thing each of us can do for the university right now.






Douglas A. Girod
University of Kansas

Romero, a senior in chemical engineering with an environmental emphasis, is vice president of student outreach for the Engineering Student Council and a regional student representative for the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers. He participates in the University Honors Program and has been a resident assistant for KU Student Housing since 2018. He is an undergraduate research assistant in water sustainability and resource recovery and helps perform COVID-19 testing in wastewater samples in Douglas and Johnson counties. He was an engineering student senator and a student assistant in the Office of International Admissions. He interned in the water technology group at Black & Veatch in summer 2020 and participated in a summer research project at West Virginia University in 2019. He is an IHAWKe Exceptional Scholar and was named a Student Housing Staff Member of the Year in 2019.


The Ex.C.E.L. Award provides an annual $250 scholarship to students. Nominees were selected on the basis of leadership, effective communication skills, involvement at KU and in the Lawrence community, academic scholarship and ability to work with a variety of students and organizations. 


The Alumni Association also honored Katy Wagner, a pre-medicine senior from Topeka, with the Jennifer Alderdice Homecoming Award, which recognizes students who demonstrate outstanding loyalty and dedication to the University. The award honors Alderdice, of Lawrence, who led student programs for the Alumni Association from 1999 to 2009 and earned her KU master’s degree education in 1999. 


The theme for this year’s Homecoming was “Rock Chalk Around the World.” The event was sponsored by the KU Bookstore and Truity Credit Union and supported by Crown Toyota, Volkswagen.


Several traditional Homecoming activities were replaced this year with digital events, including a weeklong game of bingo, which drew nearly 400 Jayhawk participants, and a virtual scavenger hunt, both of which were played via the KU Alumni app. More than 200 students and alumni also participated in Kyou Networking Week, a series of 11 virtual events in a variety of professional fields, hosted by the Alumni Association and its Jayhawk Career Network. A Facebook Live event, featuring a performance by the Marching Jayhawks and a celebratory flyover, rounded out the week and took the place of the annual Homecoming parade.


The week’s events were organized by the KU Alumni Association and a student-led steering committee, which was chaired by Peyton Hadley, a sophomore from Shawnee majoring in film and media studies; Julie Jorgensen, a senior from Cedar Falls, Iowa, majoring in strategic communications; Madi McGuire, a senior from Lake Saint Louis, Missouri, majoring in human biology; Andrew Ost, a junior from Olathe majoring in finance; and Peyton Werner, a senior from Topeka majoring in information systems and business analytics. They worked with Alumni Association staff member Megan McGinnis, assistant director of student programs.


For more information about this year’s event, visit

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