Arkansas State reports slight decrease in enrollment from fall 2019, sets new record for first-year student retention

Education

JONESBORO, Ark.- Arkansas State University (ASU) officials say there is a slight decrease in enrollment in comparison last year, but the university has set a new record for first-year student retention.

According to a news release sent Thursday, the total enrollment on the 11th day of classes for fall 2020 is 13,843 students.

ASU had 13,891 students in fall 2019, a 48-student difference equaling a 0.3% decrease from fall 2019, according to officials.

“It is remarkable to see that our overall enrollment is close to what we had last fall in spite of the great challenges we are facing through the coronavirus pandemic,” Chancellor Kelly Damphousse said. “At the same time, we also recognize that our enrollment mix will ultimately determine the impact of enrollment on our budget.”

According to the news release, the average decline in enrollment among the 10 four-year public universities in Arkansas is 2.1%. Community colleges saw a 7.1% decline in enrollment this year.

Arkansas State officials say a new record was set for first-year student retention. According to the news release, 79% of the fall 2019 first-year students are enrolled in their second year of classes this fall.

Officials say this breaks the previous mark of 76.6% two years ago.

“The efforts made by our faculty and academic support teams to identify how we can assist our first-year students were outstanding this past year,” Damphousse said. “Consider that not only were these students in their first year of college, they were also caught up in the rapid shift to online instruction last spring due to the pandemic. Congratulations to Dr. Jill Simons, our Chancellor’s Commission on Completion, and our Pack Support team for achieving a record retention with our first-year students.”

ASU officials say this year’s on-campus freshman class is 1,264, which is a decline of 85 students from last year.

“I don’t think that we will ever be able to measure the impact of the global pandemic on the size of our incoming Class of 2024. It was certainly challenging for our admissions team to recruit students after schools across the state closed down in March. Anecdotally, we know that many prospective students preferred to stay closer to home this fall, to attend college 100% online, or to not attend college at all,” Damphousse said.

Arkansas State’s online enrollment saw an increase this fall, with a total of 4,638 students enrolled for the first fall session. Officials say this includes a record of 996 undergraduate students entirely enrolled in online programs, which is an increase of 28.2% over last year.

“We continue to be the leader in online instruction for our state, and as we begin our second decade of offering 100% online graduate and undergraduate programs, we are exploring new pathways to success for students who prefer learning in an online environment,” Damphousse said. “We are seeing an increase in the number of working adults, for example, who are entering our undergraduate online programs to complete a degree that they started elsewhere. Without our online program, most of these students would not be able to earn a four-year degree.”

Officials say Campus Queretaro welcomed a record 255 new first-year students into its program this fall, with a total of 737 students enrolled.

“Compared to similar international campuses led by other universities, this enrollment growth in such a short time period is very positive, and suggests that students believe Campus Queretaro is a valuable opportunity,” said Damphousse. “I am looking forward to holding our first graduation ceremonies in Queretaro next May.”

Another enrollment increase for Arkansas State was with concurrent high school students. Officials say there was a 2.2% increase to 728 students.

Compared to the previous fall, Arkansas State Univerity officials say there were significant reductions in transfer students (21% decrease) and international students (19% decrease) this fall.

“The typical transfer student comes to A-State from a community college. The pandemic reduced recruiting effectiveness there, and we are also seeing a decline in attendance for the community college population statewide,” said Damphousse. “International student enrollment is struggling across the country as those students face difficulties in reaching the United States due to the global pandemic.”

Arkansas State officials say they are experiencing a large increase in graduation rates.

“A-State’s current six-year graduation rate is now over 50%, so we are not surprised to see fewer returning students this fall,” Damphousse said. “But we also built our FY21 budget based on a 5% decrease in enrollment this fall because of the unknown impact of the pandemic. Now that our enrollment is set, we can begin determining the impact of our enrollment mix on our budget. That includes calculating the total enrollment revenue net of expenses like scholarships, tuition waivers, marketing, and payroll.”

Arkansas State began the fall 2020 semester on Tuesday, August 25, making its 11th day slightly later than most universities in the state, according to officials.

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