University of Arkansas - Fort Smith officials announced Jan. 31 that 6,589 students have enrolled for the 2013 spring semester, for a full-time equivalent (FTE) enrollment of 5,289.
The numbers represent a slight decrease from last spring’s figures -- a 2 percent decrease in headcount and less than a 1 percent decrease in FTE -- however University officials view the figures optimistically.
Dr. Paul B. Beran, UAFS chancellor, said the enrollment data shows there is more to the story.
“This is the fourth highest spring enrollment figure in the institution’s 85-year history,” said Beran. “Included in those figures are increases in three colleges, increases in first-time entering student enrollment and increases in upper-division enrollment. On top of that, we continue to graduate more students with four-year degrees. This is all good news.”
Dr. Ray Wallace, UAFS provost and senior vice chancellor, observed that the 2 percent decrease in enrollment can be attributed mostly to a decline in the number of remedial students and the loss of students placed on academic suspension due to poor grades.
Three academic colleges -- Languages and Communication, Applied Science and Technology, and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics -- all showed significant increases in majors.
The College of Languages and Communications had an increase of 20 percent in declared majors, the College of Applied Science and Technology showed an increase of 13 percent in majors and STEM had a 9 percent increase in majors.
“The two science-related colleges’ increases result from the University’s response to a nationwide mandate promoting fields in math and science,” said Wallace.
First-time entering student enrollments increased by 24 percent, entering transfer students increased by 23 percent and international students showed an 11 percent increase.
Wallace said the number of students enrolled in upper-division courses increased 2 percent.
“More than 37 percent of our total UAFS enrollment consists of upper class students well on their way toward receiving a bachelor’s degree,” Wallace said.
UAFS saw an 18 percent increase in baccalaureate degrees awarded during the 2011-12 academic year, and UAFS officials expect another 12 percent record increase for the 2012-13 academic year.
“UAFS continues to be successful in increasing the number of four-year degree recipients in response to the State’s overall goal in this area,” said Wallace.
UAFS officials also remarked on changes in the types of students represented at the University. Penny Pendleton, dean of enrollment management, said UAFS has seen a 6 percent decline in the number of students enrolled in remedial courses.
“And, because our overall ACT scores continue to climb, I suspect that we will continue to see fewer developmental students,” said Pendleton. “While it is evident that fewer students are enrolling in remedial courses at UAFS, those that do are advancing through the program at a more efficient rate.”
Pendleton said developmental studies faculty have streamlined their curriculum to more effectively assist these students at the point of need, and academic success strategies are now in place to more rapidly advance them toward college-level courses.
“UAFS works closely with the State minimum placement score guidelines, and all students must meet required admission placement score standards to enroll at UAFS,” she said.
Additionally, the University continues its policy on requiring satisfactory academic progress of students receiving financial aid. According to Wallace, students who did not pass any courses for a given term are immediately placed on financial aid suspension.
“The University continues to be a good steward of federal funds,” he said. “If students failed to pass their courses through non-attendance, failure or withdrawal, we felt it imperative not to reward them with tax-payer funded revenue. Therefore, approximately 260 UAFS students were put on suspension through this policy for the spring semester, and many of these students did not return.”
Wallace said the University continually reviews policies regarding recruitment, admissions and retention in order to promote and enhance student success toward attainment of the desired degree. Retention efforts include tutoring, academic early alerts, individual advisement and professor-to-student mentoring programs.