Arkansas State University had a smaller than expected incoming freshman class in 2017, and retention numbers had been lower than projected. Both numbers rebounded strongly this fall.
Arkansas State reported 1,565 first-time first-year students, up 9.7% from 1,426 in 2017, according to the university. Included in this year’s freshman numbers are 50 international students, a 51% increase over last year (33 up to 50).
“I’m very happy with the progress we have made in two vital areas for our university – retention and first-time students,” Chancellor Kelly Damphousse said. “It takes a lot of work to increase your freshman class as much as we did in one year. To have close to 1,600 new Red Wolves this fall is a positive step in the right direction. I am even more excited, though, that our team’s effort to enhance the first-year experience at A-State has resulted in a record retention rate this fall.”
ASU had an overall enrollment head count of 14,058, which includes students at the Jonesboro campus as well as the students enrolled at Campus Queretaro in Mexico (349 students), marking the third consecutive year with enrollment over 14,000. Official enrollment numbers are tabulated after 11 school days have passed.
Despite positive numbers, the overall number of students at ASU dropped by 86 students from the previous school year. Record graduating classes in recent years are one factor, Damphousse said. In 2017-18, ASU conferred 4,746 degrees, breaking the one-year old record of 4,435 diplomas doled in 2016-17.
Earlier in August, the chancellor predicted the retention rate for the 2017 freshman class would set a school record, and it did when 76.6% returned this fall for their sophomore year. The retention rate edged past the previous record of 76.1% from the fall of 2014, and was an improvement over last year’s 72.8%, according to the university.
ASU has targeted minorities in its recruiting efforts, Damphousse said. The number of African American students in the first-year class increased 23% as compared to last year (from 131 to 161) and Hispanics were up 48% from 48 to 71.
“The credit goes to our faculty and staff who took a hard look at our processes and procedures that were impacting the ability of our students to return, and programs to assist students in staying at A-State and complete their degrees,” Damphousse said. “It is the combined effort of the entire campus that is making Every Red Wolf Count. Our ultimate first-year retention goal is 85%, so we still have a lot of work to do, but we are now in record territory, and we are excited about continuing to move forward.”
The incoming Class of 2022 earned the distinction of tying the highest average composite ACT score at 24 and the mark for the highest high school composite grade point average at 3.56. Arkansas State also saw huge gains in other groups, significantly its transfer population, increasing from 662 last year to 802 this year.
“We have worked closely with community colleges across the state to make certain that their students know that there is a place for them at A-State,” Damphousse said. “We have signed almost 350 articulations with these colleges, creating a pathway to Jonesboro and to a four-year college degree. The fruits of our team’s efforts are evident when you see a 21.1% increase like we had this year.”