CONWAY, Ark. (January 29, 2010) – In its annual report on fall enrollment, the Arkansas Department of Higher Education (ADHE) reported that enrollment is up by 6.2 percent over last year in the state’s 33 public colleges and universities and 11 private institutions. The total number of students enrolled in the Fall 2009 semester increased to 164,997 students. In Fall 2008, 155,352 students were enrolled.
ADHE Director Jim Purcell said he is encouraged by the increase but cautioned that institutions will have to find ways to absorb the increased costs associated with climbing enrollment during difficult economic times.
“The increase shows that people are very aware of the value education can bring to their lives,” said Dr. Purcell. “We strongly encourage these students to work hard and do well as they pursue the American Dream. The flip side, however, is that the institutions’ budgets will be further strained during the current economic downturn, and we’ll all have to be very careful to use the resources we have as efficiently as possible.”
Total enrollments for Arkansas’s 11 four-year universities were 89,908 students in the Fall term, up from 86,137 the previous year. The state’s two-year colleges saw enrollments jump to 59,582 students from 54,263 the previous year. The 11 private colleges in the state also saw enrollment gains, increasing to 15,507 students, up from 14,953 the previous term.
Along with rising enrollments, remediation rates in the state’s public colleges and universities also increased, up 3.3 percent the previous year to 54.6 percent of first-time, degree seeking students. Of the 11,837 students assigned to remediation, 5,260 (44.4 percent) were in the four-year sector, and 6,577 (55.6 percent) were in the two-year sector.
“Naturally, we would prefer to see remediation rates decline in the state, but with the enrollment increase we saw this year we are not surprised that remediation has increased as well,” said Dr. Purcell. “There will likely always be a need for some remediation but I think the key to making it work is to take steps that will ensure the highest likelihood of student success. One of the highest drop-out rates we have is among students assigned to remediation, and I think efforts to ensure that those students are successful are vital to making remediation work.”
For 2010, the Arkansas Higher Education Coordinating Board voted unanimously to retain its three officers for another year. Bob Burns will continue as chairman, David Leech as Vice Chairman, and Dr. Charles Allen as secretary. The three were chosen on the recommendation of the Board Nominating Committee, consisting of board members Kaneaster Hodges, David Leech, and Bob Crafton.
In other business, the board adopted rules and regulations for two financial aid programs. The State Teacher Education Program (STEP) consolidates three other programs; the State Teacher Assistance Resource (STAR) Program, the Minority Teacher Scholars Program (MTSP), and the Minority Masters Fellow (MMF) Program.
STEP will assist with repayment of federal student loans for up to three years for eligible teachers that teach in a geographic and/or subject shortage area for three years, or who are members of a minority race. The consolidation of the three programs into STEP was done to comply with Act 1215 of 2009, passed by the General Assembly to ensure that funds were being used effectively.
The board also approved new rules and regulations related to the Teacher Opportunity Program (TOP) which remove the nomination and monetary match requirements for school districts to allow more teachers to access the TOP Dual Licensure incentive program, which provides reimbursements to employed teachers seeking completion of a dual teacher’s license in an additional subject area identified as having a critical shortage of teachers. This action was taken to comply with Act 1214 of 2009.
In compliance with Act 182 of 2009, the board approved guidelines for the Arkansas Course Transfer System (ACTS) to create a transparent, easy to understand statewide transfer system that eliminates obstacles to the transfer of credit among Arkansas public higher education institutions. Under Act 182, the guidelines also call for a seamless transfer of academic credits from a completed designated transfer degree program to a baccalaureat3e degree program without the loss of earned credits and without the reciveing institution requiring additional lower-level general education credits, and to eliminate unnecessary, duplicative, and/or hard-to-determine degree requirements when a transfer student has completed all courses required for a transfer degree approved by the AHECB.
Following a recommendation by the Academic Committee, the board approved new programs at three Arkansas institutions. Arkansas Tech University in Russellville was approved for a Master of Science in health Informatics, Black River Technical College in Pocahontas was approved for an Associate of Applied Science in Business Technology by distance technology, and Pulaski Technical College in North Little Rock was approved for an Associate of Applied Science in Allied Health in collaboration with Baptist Health and St. Vincent Health schools.
The University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville received approval of the economic feasibility of a loan up to $1 million for up to a 10 year term with an interest rate not to exceed .45 percent to be used in conjunction with Higher Education Bond funds to build a Nursing and Allied Health facility. The UA Board of Trustees approved the college’s loan application in April of last year.
Arkansas State University-Beebe received approval of the economic feasibility of plans to issue approximately $11.95 million in bonds with a term of up to 30 years at an estimated annual percentage rate of 4.75 percent. Proceeds are to be used to construct and furnish a 248-bed student housing complex.