by Max Brantley
The Fayetteville campus of the University of Arkansas expects to enroll almost 21,000 students this fall, including a record number of freshmen.
The University of Arkansas is predicting another record enrollment year for the fall of 2010. Last year the official enrollment was 19,849 for the fall semester. This year more than 20,700 students are expected to enroll. A record number of new freshmen are also expected to choose the University of Arkansas. So far 3,458 degree seeking freshmen have enrolled, an increase of 500 over fall 2009 and well above the 2015 goal of 3,350. The exactly enrollment numbers will not be known until the 11th day of the fall semester when the enrollment “snapshot” is taken, as required by state law, but all indicators point to record growth.
“It’s exciting. These numbers are right where we want them to be,” said Chancellor G. David Gearhart. “We know that we can best serve the interests of the students and of the state by growing in the right way. We are attracting talented students from across Arkansas and the nation to our state’s flagship campus. They have heard our message—that we are a Students First university— working energetically and creatively to help them succeed in our classrooms and in the world beyond.”
“We have been preparing for this increase since November,” said Provost Sharon Gaber. “We have expanded the number of sections in core classes to meet the demand. We have renovated residence halls and we are increasing classroom availability. We are also thinking about retention as well as enrollment, adding staff to the Office of Academic Success and to the Office of Financial Aid. We want to be sure students receive support in areas that we know are key to their continued success. We are bringing in students who have great potential and we will do our part to help them realize it.”
Most of the Arkansas students in the incoming freshmen class will have support from the Arkansas Challenge Scholarship Program, funded by the state lottery. Those who do not will be encouraged to apply for the scholarship in the spring. These scholarships have clearly contributed to increases in the number of in-state students, who will likely be joined by a record number of out-of-state students as well, said Suzanne McCray, director of enrollment services.
“The University of Arkansas is becoming a destination school for students across the state and across the country as out reputation grows nationally. Prospective students are much better informed now about the importance of picking the college that is the right fit for them and they are starting earlier and taking longer to make their decision. We benefit from that approach. The more students know about the University of Arkansas the more likely they are to come here. The number of people who visit our campus has tripled. Once students and their families see our facilities, meet with faculty and students, get a sense of the community and the special opportunities we have to offer then they are persuaded.”
McCray said that the enrollment gains are anticipated in every college at the university. The College of Education and Health Professions has already enrolled more students than predicted. The J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Engineering and the Sam M. Walton College of Business will also hit record undergraduate numbers. The Honors College is also expecting to have a record number of students, which is evidence of the quality of the incoming freshman class. The graduate school and law school anticipate small enrollment gains.