Arkansas State University system reaches all-time high enrollment

by George Jared ([email protected]) 179 views 

The Arkansas State University system has 24,013 students, an all-time record, according to the school. It’s a 4% increase from the 23,101 students who were enrolled in the system in 2015.

ASU President Chuck Welch told Talk Business & Politics he’s pleased with the student population surge, and it’s a nice surprise considering how strong the economy has been in recent years.

“Our growth has been remarkable … we saw strong enrollment numbers across the board,” Welch said following the ASU Board of Trustees meeting Friday in Jonesboro.

Universities statewide grew at about 1.4% this term, meaning the system out performed many institutions across the state, Welch said. Specific numbers from other state schools were not released. When unemployment numbers rise, enrollment numbers tend to climb as workers seek new job skills or degrees to aid in finding a job, Welch said. When those numbers drop, college and university rosters tend to fall with it.

Arkansas has an unemployment rate of 3.9%, far below what it has been in recent years. Jonesboro’s unemployment rate has hovered at or near 3% this year, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Enrollment at the Jonesboro campus grew 5% to a record 14,074 students. ASU-Newport’s student roster grew by 5.7% to 2,711 students. ASU-Beebe’s enrollment topped 4,026 students, a 4.7% increase. ASU-Mid-South declined slightly by 1.4% to 1,870 students this fall. ASU-Mountain Home also dropped from 1,384 in 2015 to 1,350 this year, a 2.5% drop.

“Mountain Home has one of the more challenging situations due to location and a very small service area,” Welch said. “Growth in technical programs has been nothing short of amazing. ASU-Mountain Home has the highest success rate of any two-year institution in the state in terms of retention and graduation rates.”

Student retention has been a key to the system’s record enrollment numbers in recent years, Welch said. The Jonesboro campus has had record-setting retention rates among in freshman and sophomore classes in recent years, according to the school.

“It’s easier to retain a current student than recruit a new one,” Welch said.

The ASU system is not resting on its laurels, Welch said. Active attempts to broaden the system by adding another partner instructions or institutions are ongoing, he said. The system president would not specify which schools ASU has been in talks with, but he said he’s pleased with the progress that has been made.

Increases like this in healthy economic times are rare, and 5% growth on any campus cannot be expected from year to year, Welch said. But, administrators think the Jonesboro campus should have up to 15,000 students in any given year into the future, he said.

“We feel like that’s a very achievable goal,” he said.