In 2020, 117,469 students enrolled in fall semester classes at Kansas Board of Regent universities and technical colleges across the state.
With 32 public higher education institutions (six state universities, one municipal university, 19 community colleges and six technical colleges) across the state, a high-quality and affordable education is easily within reach. The state’s graduation rates highlight its attitude toward education. The high school graduation rate in the U.S. is 87.7%, while Kansas’ rate surpasses the national average at 90.7%. More Kansans hold at least a bachelor’s degree as well, with 32.9% versus the national average of 31.5%.
The following is an overview of the state’s public four-year universities and their unique impacts on the state’s workforce pipeline.
University of Kansas
The University of Kansas (KU), the state’s flagship university and a premier research institution, has five campuses and several online offerings. The university is consistently ranked highly for its academics and is one of only 65 invited members of the prestigious Association of American Universities (AAU). KU’s total annual enrollment sits at 28,500. Additionally, KU is one of 26 universities in the country that have a National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center, a National Institute on Aging-designated Alzheimer’s disease center and a National Institutes of Health Clinical and Translational Science Award.
The main campus in Lawrence is considered one of the country’s most beautiful. KU has an additional campus in Overland Park, with three medical campus branches in Kansas City, Wichita and Salina.
The University of Kansa Medical Center is the only medical school in the state and includes the School of Medicine, the School of Nursing and the School of Health Professions. Additionally, the University of Kansas Health System in Kansas City is a world-class academic medical center providing care to the region.
Kansas State University
Kansas State University (K-State) has earned national recognition over the years for its research capabilities. With more than 22,000 students enrolled in more than 250 academic undergraduate programs and more than 165 graduate degrees and certificate programs, the university is a crucial pipeline for the state’s talent needs.
K-State operates four unique campuses, each with its own specialty and focus. The university’s main campus is in Manhattan, next door to Fort Riley, a large Army installation, and collaborates on many military-focused projects. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility is currently under construction next to the campus.
The university’s newest campus in Olathe is located within the Kansas Bioscience Park and is known for helping industries in the area develop new technologies. K-State Polytechnic campus in Salina is known for its world-class aviation program. It is one of the first and only in the country offering a bachelor’s degree in unmanned aircraft systems. K-State Global Campus offers more than 70 online programs and serves students across the country and in more than 40 countries.
Wichita State University
With a key focus on innovation and technology, Wichita State University (WSU) aims to provide innovative pathways to career opportunities to students. Wichita State University serves as the Kansas urban-based research university, enrolling more than 20,000 students annually. Located in the largest city in the state with one of the highest concentrations in the country of STEM jobs, WSU provides innovative pathways of applied learning, applied research and career opportunities for students.
Over the last decade, the university has expanded rapidly. With dozens of new buildings and renovation projects, not to mention an ever-growing list of public-private partnerships, the university is continually improving.
The Innovation Campus, part of Wichita State University’s main campus, is one of the nation’s largest and fastest-growing research/innovation parks, encompassing over 120 acres and home to a number of global companies and organizations. Innovation Campus partner companies include Airbus, Spirit Aerosystems, Deloitte and many others.
Additionally, WSU Tech — an affiliate of Wichita State University — is the state’s leader in modern technical education, offering over 100 degree and certificate options in aviation, health care, manufacturing, design, information technology, police science and business. In 2018, WSU Tech was named the second fastest-growing college among two-year colleges by The Chronicle of Higher Education. WSU Tech serves as managing partner of the National Center for Aviation Training (NCAT) in Wichita.
Washburn University, a municipal university in the heart of Topeka, enrolls just under 7,000 students in more than 200 academic programs. The traditional 160-acre campus is home to the university’s prestigious School of Law.
Recently, education technology company EAB recognized Washburn University’s work on behalf of student achievement with its Student Success Collaborative - Technology Pioneer Award. The award recognizes an institution that is consistently on the leading edge in technology and testing new solutions to advance student success.
Washburn Institute of Technology (Washburn Tech) has a unique affiliation with Washburn University that allows students to transfer to the university for advanced degrees after taking technical courses. With programs in advanced manufacturing, business, computer science, health care and more, Washburn Tech works closely with business and industry to ensure students leave with skills that lead to gainful employment.
Pittsburg State University
With its Flat-Rate Tuition program, students at Pittsburg State University (PSU) pay a single tuition rate, regardless of how many credits are taken. The program allows full-time undergraduate and graduate students to take extra classes — even earn a double major — without spending more. Located in Pittsburg, the university enrolls approximately 6,500 annually.
Fifty years ago, PSU was one of the first in the nation to develop a Plastics Engineering Technology program. The university also boasts a growing Polymer Chemistry program unlike anything within hundreds of miles.
The Kansas Polymer Research Center (KPRC) is internationally recognized for chemistry and materials science, with a specialization in bio-based polymer research and development. KPRC works with industry and government to develop and commercialize the university’s intellectual property.
In September, KPRC was awarded a three-year, $2.39 million grant to develop new technologies that will diversify the regional workforce, support business relocations and startups, and result in new career opportunities.
Emporia State University
With more than 200 academic programs and 5,800 students enrolled each year, Emporia State University (ESU) offers students a high-quality and affordable education. ESU was ranked the No. 1 university in Kansas for the lowest student debt. In 2019, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance included the university in its Best College Values List. It is also the only public university in Kansas to be named a College of Distinction.
Fort Hays State University
Fort Hays State University (FHSU) in the city of Hays enrolls more than 15,900 students annually. FHSU has the lowest tuition rates in the Kansas Board of Regents system and provides one of the nation’s best educational values. With a 96% job placement rate, the university prepares students for success after graduation. The university’s Center for Entrepreneurship serves as a hub for innovation and is one of its fastest-growing study areas.