Graduation numbers may be slightly down from last year, but the number of students graduating with a bachelor’s degree Saturday from the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith is up 17% from last year.
Dr. Georgia Hale, UAFS provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, reported 610 students are eligible for graduation this fall. That combines those who finished their degrees in the summer and those finishing this fall. Those numbers are down 6% from the number of graduates last December.
“But the exciting thing is our bachelor’s degrees are up 17% from last December,” Hale said in a report to the UAFS Board of Visitors Dec. 4.
Total numbers are 419 bachelor’s degrees, 109 associate degrees, 29 technical certificates, 47 certificates of proficiency and six master’s degrees. In the fall of 2018, there were 651 graduates; of those, 357 graduated with a bachelor’s degree and one with a master’s degree.
“We know that students who earn a bachelor’s degree in Arkansas can expect an average increase in annual pay of $18,864, so the 419 students who are achieving that milestone this Saturday are setting themselves up for powerful gains in their employability and future earnings,” said Dr. Terisa Riley, UAFS chancellor.
In the fall of 2014, the Arkansas Higher Education Coordinating Board granted approval for UAFS to change its role and scope to offer its first graduate degree program — a master of science in healthcare administration. The online program was approved by the Higher Learning Commission in July 2015 and classes started that fall. The first two master’s degree were awarded in the spring of 2017. There have been seven graduates of the program to date, with six more candidates for graduation Saturday.
In September, UAFS was approved to offer a master’s degree in education. Students will begin in that program in the spring.
Riley said the uptick in bachelor’s degree graduates this December shows that the university’s pathways are working.
“We have pathways in place for students to go from earning a certificate to an associate degree to a bachelor’s degree or from earning their associate to earning their bachelor’s. I think this shows more students are taking advantage of that,” Riley said.
She said that while researching graduation numbers for a presentation she made earlier this fall, she learned that overall graduation numbers at UAFS have grown 22% over the past five years.
“That’s a significant increase,” Riley said. “I think it shows that UAFS, we will help you receive a degree.”