LITTLE ROCK — Enrollment this fall at Arkansas’ two- and four-year colleges and universities is down 0.8 percent compared to last year, the state higher education officials said Monday.
Fall enrollment at the state’s 11 four-year colleges and 22 two-year schools totaled 157,377 — full- and part-time students — based on a "snapshot" of enrollment on the 11th day of classes for both undergraduate and graduate levels, the department said. Total enrollment is up 1 percent at the four-year schools and down 3.5 percent at the state’s two-year schools.
Enrollment at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville is up 5.8 percent this fall to 24,537. Arkansas Tech University’s enrollment is up 4.6 percent to 10,949 and and University of Arkansas at Monticello’s enrollment is up 0.6 percent to 3,945.
Meanwhile, enrollment at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff dropped 11.3 percent compared to last year, to 2,828. Arkansas State University’s enrollment dropped 0.4 percent to 13,893, University of Central Arkansas enrollment dropped 0.5 percent to 11,107 and enrollment at UA-Fort Smith dropped 3 percent to 7,336.
State education officials attributed the decline in part to a loss of part-time students, which might have been caused by changes to Pell Grant eligibility. The grants were designed to help students who come from low-income families attend college.
Congress last December, in order to avoid a government shutdown, reached a deal that included reducing the eligibility to use Pell Grants from 18 semesters to 12 semesters.
In 1980, the maximum Pell Grant covered the entire cost of obtaining a two-year degree and 77 percent of the cost at a public university. Recent reports indicate the maximum now covers 62 percent of the cost of a two-year degree and 36 percent of of the cost of a four-year degree.
In fact, the number of part-time students enrolled in four-year state schools in Arkansas is up 3.4 percent this fall, and down 4.3 percent in two-year schools, according to the higher education report.
Shane Broadway, interim director of the state Department of Higher Education, said the Arkansas College Scholarship is probably responsible for the increase in full-time enrollment.
"We’re happy to see full-time enrollment increase, 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.
Among the two-year colleges, East Arkansas Community College in Forrest City, has seen its enrollment rise 12.4 percent this fall to 1,464, and the University of Arkansas Community College at Hope has had a 9.5 percent increase to 1,505.