The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff is the only institution of higher learning in the state to experience enrollment increases since the fall of 2019.
UAPB’s student headcount has grown from 2,498 students to 2,668 in the fall of 2020 as COVID-19 raged, to 2,793 this past spring.
Dr. Laurence Alexander, chancellor of the historically Black school, expects another bump this coming fall. He told Arkansas Money & Politics that UAPB saw growth in both undergraduate and graduate student populations.
“We are extremely proud of the hard work over the last several years to offer students a quality education at an incredible value,” he said. “Particularly for the fall of 2020 and spring of 2021, it was important to connect with incoming and returning students early and often to share information about our COVID-19 protocols and our commitment to protecting students’ health and welfare, while also making the majority of our undergrad and graduate programs available online during this challenging period.”
Through the pandemic, the school continued its strategic messaging to students and “influencers” highlighting top programs and student success, he added. UAPB’s Division of Enrollment Management and Student Success created systems to connect with high school students early in their search and share the benefits of attending the school.
“One of the great things about UAPB is our affordability; we continue to rank as one of the most affordable institutions in the state, and our extensive scholarship offerings assist in making a college education affordable,” Alexander said. “Most importantly, we always offer students the assurance of a safe, familial environment and a solid foundation for matriculation and growth.”
With students, faculty and staff returning to campus en masse this fall for traditional in-person learning, Alexander expects another enrollment increase but knows COVID could still have a say in how the semester plays out. But he admitted to “cautious optimism.”
The traditional, in-person model, after all, still has value, he said.
“If there is one lesson learned during the pandemic, it is that in-person engagement is a necessary component for the full exploration of ideas. Immersion through a traditional on-campus model is extremely important for student growth and development, because not only do students have access to academic facilities, such as laboratories, but they also learn interpersonal skills needed for the workforce and society,” he said.