Focus on Academic Excellence Attracts Top Students and Fuels Record Growth

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The start of the new school year is another record-breaker at the University of Arkansas as preliminary enrollment numbers indicate the state’s flagship institution set new records, with a total of nearly 24,600 students; undergraduate enrollment topping 20,000 for the first time; and freshman enrollment of more than 4,500 new students. Those numbers are impressive, but not as exciting to the campus community as the fact that the quality of students the university is attracting continues to grow as well.

Download a PDF showing enrollment statistics for fall 2012.

“Many times growth at colleges and universities comes at the cost of academic standards, but the growth the University of Arkansas has been experiencing over the past few years is different — it’s quality growth coming mostly from existing students succeeding and making positive progress toward graduation,” said Chancellor G. David Gearhart. “With that said, our incoming class of freshmen is once again the most academically accomplished and prepared group we’ve ever had. That’s a great combination.”

For the last several years, the university’s incoming freshmen classes have been among the school’s best. This year is no exception.

“We continue to see an increase in students with grade point averages above 3.6 and ACT scores of 26 or higher,” Gearhart said. “We’ve also seen a significant increase in the number of students graduating in the top 10 percent of their class. So we can again say this year’s incoming class is the most academically accomplished and most prepared in the history of the University of Arkansas.”

Despite the fact that the incoming freshman class only grew by approximately 100 students, the steadily increasing number of students making positive progress toward graduation drove a total enrollment increase of nearly 1,400 over last year’s fall enrollment mark of 23,199.

“Continuing students are making up the majority of our growth and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future,” said Suzanne McCray, vice provost of enrollment management and dean of admissions. “We are bigger; we are better; and we are well on our way to being a top 50 institution with a raft of great students ready to help take us there.”

Undergraduate enrollment at the university has soared, increasing by nearly 37 percent since 2007. In 2009, the university’s total enrollment was just under 20,000; three years later the undergraduate population alone – 20,433 – is larger than that, in addition to the nearly 4,200 graduate students now enrolled. The population of underrepresented students on campus is growing as well, up more than 24 percent over the last three years.

“We continue working hard to empower and invite underrepresented students from across the state to make the University of Arkansas their school of choice,” said Charles Robinson, vice provost for diversity affairs. “Based on the growth that we see, we feel that we are having some success. However, we realize that there is still much more work to do.”

The number of students receiving Pell grants is significant. Of the freshmen class this fall, 25 percent are utilizing the need-based grants available to students from low-income families.

Victoria Pohlner of Weiner, president of the university’s Associated Student Government, opened Monday’s news conference.

“Students are excited about the new year and its potential,” she said. “We can’t wait to see what unfolds this year.”

Monday’s enrollment figures are still preliminary. The official numbers will not be available until after the “11th day snapshot” required by the Arkansas Department of Higher Education. That information will be collected on Sept. 4. The enrollment data is then analyzed and reviewed for accuracy before a preliminary report is submitted to the department, with the final numbers from that 11th day snapshot officially filed by mid-October.


Mark Rushing, associate vice chancellor
University Relations


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