JONESBORO — Arkansas State University reported to the Arkansas Division of Higher Education (ADHE) that its total enrollment on the 11th day of classes for fall 2020 was 13,843 students – with an estimated 11,382 attending classes on the Jonesboro campus.
A‑State had 13,891 students in fall 2019; a 48-student difference amounts to a 0.3 percent decrease from fall 2019, the university reported Thursday.
“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.”
Among the 10 four-year public universities in Arkansas, the average decline in enrollment this fall is 2.1 percent, while community colleges saw a 7.1 percent decline in enrollment this year.
A-State set a new record for first-year student retention as 79 percent of the fall 2019 first-year students are enrolled in their second year of classes this fall. It breaks the previous mark of 76.6 percent 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 ...”
This year’s on-campus freshman class is 1,264, 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,” Damphousse said. “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 percent online or to not attend college at all.”
Meanwhile, A-State’s online enrollment rose to new heights for this fall, with a total of 4,638 students enrolled for the first fall session. This included a record 996 undergraduate students enrolled in 100 percent online programs, an increase of 28.2 percent growth 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 percent 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,” he said.
Campus Queretaro is welcoming a record 255 new first-year students into its program this fall, with a total of 737 students enrolled. This is the fourth year of operations for A-State CQ.
Another enrollment increase for A-State was among concurrent high school students, up 2.2 percent to 728 students, bolstered in part by A-State’s collaboration with the Governor’s Office initiative to provide computer coding classes for high school students.
Compared to fall 2019, A-State experienced significant reductions in transfer students (-21 percent) and international students (-19 percent) 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.”
A-State is experiencing an increase in graduation rates. Only 37 percent of A-State freshmen in 2007, for example, graduated within six years.
“A-State’s current six-year graduation rate is now over 50 percent, 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 percent 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.”