As the state’s premier land-grant institution, the University of Arkansas holds a special place of pride for all of us.
And while there are many reasons to be proud of the U of A – from athletics to academics, from winning conference titles and bowl games to nationally competitive awards such as the Rhodes Scholarship – our deepest pride has always been our students.
I am proud of the work we do at the University of Arkansas and equally proud of everything we have accomplished so far. When I started working at the newly minted Honors College 20 years ago, the university’s total enrollment was about 15,000 students. Today, we have approximately 15,000 students from Arkansas alone, and our total enrollment continues to break records.
As the university has grown, our priority has always been to serve the students and the state of Arkansas. It is a task that we are proud of every day.
We know that for many students in Arkansas, a scholarship can mean the difference between attending college or not, so we prioritize in-state student support. In 2019, we added $5 million to our annual scholarship funds and dedicated these resources to Arkansas only.
Of the Arkansas students who applied for scholarships this year, 97 percent have received an award — an increase from 89 percent just two years ago. Likewise, 87 percent of all scholarship dollars awarded go to in-state students, as do more than 85 percent of centrally funded scholarships. This support creates opportunity and access, and this is an essential part of our land grant fees.
Non-resident students provide basic staff support
At the same time, just as more Arkansas students are enrolling today, U of A is becoming a growing destination for students from other states, despite the fact that we have the state’s least generous programs for non-residents—who all must pay more than Arkansans to attend college.
They come here because of the quality of education they receive and because of the tremendous opportunities available in Arkansas. This growth has always benefited students within the state in a number of ways.
Revenue from non-resident student enrollment helps us increase the number of scholarships awarded to Arkansans and supports important projects such as the new Student Success Center. Students from other states also add to the liveliness of our campus.
By 2029, there will be fewer Arkansas students attending college than today due to several factors, including the decline in birth rates observed in 2008, and universities across the state are already beginning to feel the impact of this declining demographic trend. We build bridges for all of our students, and they in turn give back to Arkansas in countless ways.
The record for corners in the junior class
Finally, I am proud of the number of Arkansas students who have chosen to attend A. No eligible Arkansas student has been denied admission to an out-of-state student, and thanks to a number of outreach programs at the university, we are fully involved in supporting our partner high schools as they help students prepare for college.
As a member of Arkansan, alumni, parents of alumni who are launched here, and as a long-time faculty member of U of A, this is as important to me as I know it to all who deal with students on this campus. She became the Vice Dean of Enrollment in 2009. Since then, the number of staff members in the freshman class has increased by 38 percent.
Last fall, more than 2,600 new students from across our state—a record number—arrived on campus to begin their academic careers. Here, they find a Razorback community dedicated to their success, both on and off campus.
Providing pathways to success for Arkansas students
Can we do more? Yes we are.
With our new Student Success Center opening this spring, we’re creating new opportunities for our students to connect with their professors, advisors, and peers on everything from academic enrichment to career advice. We offer programs like the Accelerate Student Achievement Program, the Engineering Professional Outreach Program, the College Access Initiative, and the Pathway Program—all of which serve students directly from high schools in Arkansas.
We make investments in service learning and research opportunities and collaborate with community partners to help our students take advantage of internships, study abroad, and professional development.
For our future students, we continue to accept applications for elective admissions and work to promote scholarship opportunities that support both our students’ financial needs and academic goals.
Such work requires careful planning, partnerships, and support, but we are committed to making sure that all Arkansas are well prepared for college, and if they choose the University of Arkansas as their home on campus, we will help them find a path to success that lasts lives.
Dr. Susan McCray is the Vice Dean of the Enrollment Department at the University of Arkansas. She is also an Arkansas-raised author who graduated from the University of Arkansas and is the mother of University of Arkansas graduates.