Dept. of Higher Ed.: Headcount down, full-time enrollment up

    1:51 PM, Sep 24, 2012   |    comments
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    LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - While headcounts are down, total full-time enrollment (FTE) is up from last year at public colleges and universities across the state, officials with the Arkansas Department of Higher Education (ADHE) said Monday, based on preliminary data.

    Some campuses actually saw an increase in both categories, but the average enrollment at the 33 public colleges and universities was down .8 percent while full-time enrollment was up .8 percent. The comparison is this year's preliminary, 11-day enrollment versus 2011 fall actual enrollment.

    "Final enrollment numbers won't be available until later in the semester," said Shane Broadway, interim director at ADHE, "and figures released today are based on a snapshot of enrollment on the eleventh day of classes. We'll be able to further analyze enrollment trends when final data is collected at the end of the semester.

    "We're happy to see full-time enrollment increase," said Broadway, "and that can likely be attributed to the hours per semester requirement for Academic Challenge Scholarship recipients."

    More than 34,000 students are receiving that scholarship this fall, about one-fourth of all undergraduate students enrolled in both public and private colleges and universities in the state.

    Administrators at campuses with increases in enrollment have attributed it to robust recruitment efforts as well as the Academic Challenge Scholarship availability. Other anecdotal information from the campuses indicates changes to Pell Grant eligibility could be negatively impacting the enrollment. As an example, it was limited this year to 12 semesters of eligibility, down from 16.

    Other factors that might be impacting enrollment, Broadway said, include a slight decrease in unemployment in the state - as reported by the Department of Workforce Services - as well as a larger class of graduates than new freshmen.

    ADHE data show 32,560 first-time entering, full-time students graduated in the last academic year while only 32,108 enrolled this fall. A report last April from ADHE showed a 48 percent increase in credentials awarded over the last five years for undergraduates.

    The four-year universities saw an average increase in enrollment of 1 percent, with an increase in FTE of 3.4 percent. The two-year colleges saw a decrease in enrollment of 3.5 percent and a decrease in FTE of 4.3 percent. Total enrollment at all Arkansas colleges and universities has increased by more than 17 percent over the last five years.

    Some universities across Arkansas saw increases in enrollment, including University of Arkansas Fayetteville, which grew its student body by 5.8 percent, raising total numbers to 24, 537. Arkansas Tech University in Russellville raised its enrollment by 4.6 percent to 10,949 students. University of Arkansas at Monticello saw an increase of .6 percent, with 3,945 students enrolled. Others had decreases ranging from .1 to 11 percent.

    Two-year schools boasting the highest increases include East Arkansas Community College in Forrest City, which had a jump of 12.4 percent to a total of 1,464 students. University of Arkansas Community College at Hope had an increase of 9.5 percent, with 1,505 enrolled for fall. Cossatot Community College of the University of Arkansas at DeQueen had the third-largest increase at 7.8 percent, bringing its enrollment to 1,542. Three other colleges had increases ranging from .3 to 5 percent. The remaining 16 colleges had decreases ranging from .1 to 16 percent.

    The private schools saw an average decline in enrollment of 4.4 percent, and the FTE data was not available for those schools. However, the nursing schools - Baptist Health and Jefferson School of Nursing - saw an average increase of 12.5 percent.

    The ADHE is responsible for carrying out the policy directives of the Arkansas Higher Education Coordinating Board (AHECB), approving and reviewing college and university academic programs and developing funding recommendations for the state's 11 public universities and 22 public two-year colleges as well as several other post-secondary entities. In addition, the agency is responsible for distributing approximately $170 million annually from state revenues and lottery funds intended to ease the financial burden of students seeking an education beyond high school.

    The application period for all ADHE scholarships is Jan. 1 through June 1 for the upcoming 2012-13 academic year. For more information regarding scholarship application, visit www.adhe.edu.

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