LITTLE ROCK — Enrollment this fall at Arkansas’ two- and four-year colleges and universities is down 2 percent compared to last year, state higher education officials said Monday.
Fall enrollment at the state’s 22-two-year-schools and 11- four-year colleges totaled 170,056 — full-time and part-time students — based on a "snap shot" of enrollment on the 11th day of classes for both undergraduate and graduate levels, the department said. Total enrollment is up 0.4 percent at four-year-schools and down 6.0 percent at the state’s two-year schools.
Despite the decrease this fall, overall enrollment at state Arkansas colleges and universities has increased by more than 3 percent over the last five years, according to the department.
Enrollment at Arkansas Tech University is up 4.0 percent this fall to 11,385. The University of Central Arkansas’ enrollment is up 3.8 percent to 11,534, and the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville saw a 3.3 percent increase to 25,341 students enrolled.
Southern Arkansas University and the University of Arkansas Medical Sciences also saw enrollment increases.
Meanwhile, enrollment at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff dropped 7.5 percent compared to last year to 2,615. Arkansas State University’s enrollment dropped 2.4 percent to 13,538 and enrollment at UA-Fort Smith dropped 2.4 percent to 7,185.
Interim Higher Education Director Shane Broadway said it’s difficult to draw any conclusions from the enrollment snap shot because final enrollment numbers will not be available until the end of the fall semester.
One prevailing thought, he said, is the slight drop in enrollment is due to an overall increase in the economy, noting that college enrollment often rises when the economy struggles.
"One of the things noted (in the report) is, you’ve got fewer students taking more hours," Broadway said. "You hope that some of it is a sign that the economy is beginning to improve and those students are finding full-time work and thus not able to go to school full-time, or even part-time."
He said he also has heard that "there have been some changes to federal financial aid that lessened the ability of some students to go to school, to be able to get enough money through a Pell Grant or a loan."
"We’ll be able to further analyze enrollment trends when final data is collected at the end of the semester," he said.