For many University of Arkansas - Fort Smith students, the university’s commencement ceremonies May 9 marked the end of one chapter of their lives and the beginning of another. But Saturday also marked a major milestone for the university: the largest graduating class in its history.
UAFS will confer a projected 1,475 degrees and certificates to graduating students in the 2014-15 school year -- a 16 percent increase over last year -- with 833 receiving bachelor’s degrees, 349 receiving associate degrees and 293 receiving certificates. The numbers also reflect a 98 percent increase in bachelor’s degrees awarded compared to the 2009-10 school year.
Julie Burdick, vice chancellor for enrollment management, pointed to the university’s strength in providing high-quality, career-focused degrees as a primary reason for the increases.
“We celebrate the success of our students and give credit for the growing number of degrees earned to the wonderful teaching efforts of our faculty, who engage students in undergraduate research and career-focused discussions about the important next step in their lives,” Burdick said. “Many students participate in internships which build great resumes.”
“But what sets UAFS apart from other universities is the alignment of degree offerings with in-demand careers, as well as preparing our students to be leaders in their disciplines,” Burdick continued. “Over 70 percent of our seniors respond to a job/graduate school placement survey, with placement outcomes as high as 85 percent. More than 15 degree programs maintain a 100-percent placement in the last 10 years. This is a measure of real value.”
The growth in students earning degrees also stems from the university’s expansion of its degree offerings, according to Burdick. In the last four years, UAFS has increased the number of four-year degree programs with the addition of degrees including international business, finance and media communications.
Burdick said the fastest growing bachelor’s degree programs over the last four years include biology, criminal justice, information technology, marketing, organizational leadership, psychology and nursing.
Dr. Paul B. Beran, UAFS chancellor, said the numbers signify the university’s continued success in achieving its mission of connecting education with careers.
“The 2014-15 graduating class reflects the hard work of the university’s faculty, staff, administration -- and, most importantly, its students,” Beran said. “The increase in awarded degrees shows that UAFS is the premier regional institution of choice for students in our multi-state region.”