The Southern Regional Education Board reports that Arkansas has made progress in sending more students to college. The rate of students enrolling within 12 months of graduation increased sharply — to the regional average of 62 percent and almost the national average of 63 — between 2000 and 2008. But Arkansas still lags — worst in the South — in college graduation rate. Only 37 percent of students who entered four-year colleges as freshmen in 2002 had graduated six years later.
ATLANTA - Arkansas matches the region overall in the percentage of recent high school graduates who enroll in college, but the state and region need to help many more students go to college and finish two- and four-year degrees and certificates, a new Southern Regional Education Board report finds.
In Arkansas, 62 percent of students who had finished high school within the previous 12 months enrolled in some type of college in 2008 - slightly lower than the national college enrollment rate of 63 percent for 2008, the same as the region's rate, and up 9 percentage points from 2000 to 2008.
But Arkansas's college graduation rates lag behind the national and regional rates. The state had 37 percent of its first-time, full-time college freshmen in 2002 graduate within six years from the public four-year colleges and universities where they began - the region's lowest graduation rate. Twenty-one percent of full-time students in 2005 graduated from two-year colleges by 2008, up by 3 percentage points from 2000. However, the way college graduation is measured is flawed because it does not include part-time or transfer students. States need better data to track their progress on improving the percentages of all students who earn degrees or certificates.
Even with Arkansas's improving high school graduation rate, only 47.6 percent of Arkansas ninth-graders had a solid chance of attending college, data from 2006 show. Nearly 44 percent of ninth-graders in SREB states in 2002 had a chance for college enrollment, and slightly more than 44 percent in the nation did.
Those are among the findings of SREB's Measuring Success by Degrees: The Status of College Completion in SREB States, released today and available at www.sreb.org.
"We need more students in the pipeline from high school into college of various types to meet the work-force demands in the coming years," SREB President Dave Spence said. "Our region's and nation's future depends in no small part on helping more students prepare for and succeed in earning two- and four-year degrees and career certificates."
Other findings for Arkansas in the report:
Just over one in five (21 percent) first-time, full-time college students who enrolled in public two-year colleges in 2005 graduated in three years or less, one of only four SREB states to exceed the national rate of 20 percent.
Nearly one in three (31 percent) first-time, full-time Hispanic freshmen who enrolled in two-year colleges in 2005 graduated from their original institution in three years or less, a rate more than double that of the nation and the region, and one of only two SREB states to exceed the national rate by 15 points or more.
Less than one of five working-age adults in Arkansas had at least a bachelor's degree in 2008.