Higher tuition, less state investment in higher education, and a tough economy equate to a tricky and complicated system for students and their families to navigate.
Our content partner, The City Wire, launches the first installment in a series focusing on various funding aspects of Arkansas' higher education system.
Rising student debt and the challenge of selecting a degree that will have a job tied to it are also factors challenging those in higher education circles, according to the report.
Two-year and four-year schools are grappling with the dilemmas. A struggling economy has led to declining median household income in Arkansas in recent years, although the state doesn't break down income figures to include college graduation data.
Still, research shows that a college degree does improve an individual's income potential. And in today's environment, it may be incumbent for college graduates to be mobile in finding employment.
From “Higher Education Reports: Tracking Tuition, Job Results”:
Relevancy may sometimes be just as important as geography.
“I applaud anybody who is trying to create more relevant models for education that really matters,” said Glen Fenter, a native of Charleston, Ark., and now president of West Memphis-based Mid-South Community College.
Fenter made the comment during a recent interview about a new degree program at Arkansas Tech University-Ozark Campus designed to provide students with more options with respect to higher education.
The new associate of general studies degree allows student advisors to work with existing and new students “to tailor their coursework to meet industry needs,” and also prep for a move into a four-year degree, according to ATU-Ozark.
zarks officials said the degree should be more “relevant” in a Fort Smith metro area plagued with persistently high jobless numbers.
Fenter has long been an advocate of a “system loop” that provides flexibility for people to move between a job and the academic world.
“Workforces and businesses out there are demanding more than just the traditional academic models. … The world doesn’t look like it did more than 20 years ago,” Fenter said, adding that relevant degrees and flexible degree programs “are important to to moving the state’s economy forward.”
Fenter said a technical certificate in the right area — geographically and by occupation — may generate as much as 80% of the salary level as a bachelor’s degree.
“Arkansas is the last place you should try to ration education” by only supporting bachelor’s degree studies and programs, Fenter explained.
This first City Wire report is peppered with statistics regarding the University of Arkansas system:
- People with a college degree earn about $650,000 more over their work life than those without the degree, according to the Pew Research Center.
- Across the state, the top five schools in the UA system each have seen double-digit tuition and fee increases over the past five years.
- Earlier this year, the UA increased its tuition by 5.3% over 2011. Last year, tuition increased by 6% above 2010. Since the fall of 2008 the cost has risen 18.03%.
- Additional increases range from 17.98% in Pine Bluff, to 23.26% in Fort Smith and a 20.86% hike in Monticello. The cost to attend UA Little Rock has jumped 20.86% in the last five year period, according to school officials.
You can read the full report at this link.