Enrollment dips at NWACC, up at the UA

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 168 views 

NorthWest Arkansas Community College officials are pleased with the 8,102 students enrolled as of the 11th day of classes for this fall semester, despite a 3.8% decline from the year-ago report.

The community college said the number of new freshman and high school students enrolled concurrently is up from a year ago, and they saw a 17% jump in the number of students attending classes at the Jones Center in Springdale, the second year for that program.

NWACC’s attendance at the Washington County Center on White Road in Springdale also jumped from 775 to 803 students, an increase of 3.6% from a year ago. Enrollment in online classes at the college increased approximately 5%. Online classes are 22% of the total college credit hours. The unofficial student semester credit hours count for fall 2013 is 74,887, down from 77,745, down 3.7%.

“What’s happening at NWACC mirrors other community colleges throughout the country,” said Steven Hinds, executive director of public relations and marketing.

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center released a report in May showing a 3.6% decrease in 2013 spring enrollment versus 2012 spring enrollment at two-year public colleges. Hinds said generally speaking, that can be a positive indicator for the local economy because community college enrollments typically fall or flatten when the economy improves.

“As more jobs open up, people are able to enter or return to the workplace,” he added.

New first-time freshmen numbered 1,662 in the preliminary count, up from 1,558 a year ago. These students help fill the gap left by 1,286 students graduating with degrees or earning certificates in the spring semester. NWACC had a record number of graduates this past academic year, according to Dr. Todd Kitchen, vice president for learner support services.
“Those record numbers are a great reflection on our students and our dedicated faculty,” Kitchen said, “and we are pleased to see our students succeed in such a measurable and meaningful way. Because 95% of our students remain in the Northwest Arkansas region, that represents a boon for the local economy and the larger community.”

The local workforce numbers have grown from a year ago to 241,040 in July, adding nearly 4,000 jobs in that annual period, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

One area that continues to grow with the improving economy is college’s distance learning division, according to Dr. Kate Burkes, program director. She said the number of students taking at least one online class has risen from 39% to 42% of the total student population. 

The college also reported 759 area high school students are enrolled concurrently at NWACC this fall, up 4.54% from a year ago.
The enrollment figure of 8,102 is still a preliminary number. Eleventh-day enrollment numbers provided to the state Department of Higher Education do not include students who may be auditing a class or who are enrolled in “late start” classes that begin after the traditional 16-week term kicks off, college officials said.

Preliminary enrollment figures at the University of Arkansas show the flagship campus now has a total of 25,365 students – shooting past the goal of breaking the 25,000 level by 2021.

Since 2008, UA enrollment has increased by 32% – more than 6,000 students. The enrollment increase has resulted in the UA named the 13th fastest-growing U.S. public research university by the Chronicle of Higher Education.

UA officials also praised the quality of students enrolled. New students with a high school GPA of 3.75 or higher is at a record high of 43.5%, and 17.7% of the freshman class has an ACT score of 30 or higher – a new record for the university. Also, graduate student enrollment has grown to 3,904 students, the largest one-year increase in several years. Since 2006, graduate student enrollment has increased by 16%.