Arkansas State University reported that its total enrollment for the fall 2020 semester is 13,843 students on the 11th day of classes.
Enrollment decreased by just 0.3 percent from last year’s total. The average decline in enrollment across the 10 four-year public universities in Arkansas this fall is 2.1 percent, while enrollment at community colleges reduced by 7.1 percent. Classes at A-State began on Tuesday, Aug. 25.
“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 in a statement.
A-State’s on-campus freshman class enrollment saw a decline of 85 students from last year for a total of 1,264 this fall. Damphousse attributes this decrease to the pandemic, which left their admissions team unable to recruit across the state after shutdowns 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,” Damphousse said.
A-State’s online enrollment sharply increased this year. 4,638 total students are taking online classes in the fall, which includes a record 996 undergraduates who are exclusively taking courses online. Damphousse credits A-State’s already large online program for their ability to support students as they shift to online classes.
“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.”
A-State’s first-year retention rate has also risen despite total enrollment being down. 79.9 percent of 2019 first-year students remained at the school this fall, compared to a rate of 76.6 percent two years ago.
Damphousse also credits the pandemic for significant decreases in transfer and international students this fall. A-State generally recruits transfer students from community colleges, but school shutdowns in March decreased recruiting effectiveness statewide. International students have limited ability to reach the United States this year due to travel restrictions, and their enrollment at A-State fell by 19 percent.
Enrollment for concurrent high school students rose by 2.2 percent from last year. A-State credits their collaboration with the Governor’s office to provide high schoolers with computer coding classes for this increase.
Campus Queretaro, A-State’s American-style campus in Mexico, also reopened this fall for its fourth year of operations. The campus welcomed 255 new students for a total of 737 students enrolled in their program. The first graduation ceremony in Queretaro is currently scheduled for May 2021.
A-State originally estimated a 5 percent decrease in enrollment for the fall semester while planning their budget for the coming year.
“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,” Damphousse said.