I was talking yesterday about University of Arkansas President Donald Bobbitt's
plan to vigorously push establishment of an online UA university (eVersity
) as competition with the proliferating on-line offerings nationwide, both public and private.
UA campuses that have raised some careful questions about the plan have been getting raw PR treatment. You might think they oppose new technology and change. This overlooks that online courses are already a fact of life at every campus (a mother complained to me once that her residential student at UA-Fayetteville was taking every course that semester on-line, never visiting a bricks-and-mortar classroom). It overlooks questions about staffing up the eVersity with help from current faculty, who presumably already have full-time jobs. It presents questions about the quality of on-line courses, if they are stocked by low-cost (and perhaps less qualified) adjunct faculty.
But my real point of interest was the realization that the eVersity will have no borders. Nor should it. So we'll use Arkansas rootstock to offer college education in a nanosecond anywhere there's an Internet hookup, Altheimer or Afghanistan.
This is no more than we're doing now at conventional campuses with dorms, classrooms and libraries. See the University of Arkansas flagship campus in Fayetteville.
To get belatedly to the point of this item: The talk of universal offering of education reminded me I hadn't checked back with UA on final enrollment figures for fall. They are now available on-line
. I find them interesting.
The 10-year trend, 2004 to today, 2014.
TOTAL UA ENROLLMENT
2014 26,237 51.9% increase
ARKANSAS RESIDENT ENROLLMENT
2014 14,629 9.8% increase
Out-of-state and foreign students now comprise almost 46 percent of UAF enrollment.
Of the almost 9,000 increase in enrollment since 2004, more than 5,600 of the growth has come from enrollment increases in the states that border Arkansas — Texas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Kansas, Tennessee, Louisiana and Mississippi
(in order of students). Students in these states aren't required to pay full out-of-state tuition, but the in-state rate plus a surcharge. It's a bargain. Correction: I forgot to include Kansas among the states with the tuition break. Also: It is now styled a "scholarship," but goes automatically to anyone from those states with a 24 ACT and 3.25 GPA. It waives 80 percent of the difference in in-state and out-of-state tuition. I'm unaware of any bonus tuition breaks automatically given to Arkansas students solely on the basis of a 24 ACT and 3.25 GPA.
The big contributors are Texas, with 4,595 students at Fayetteville, Missouri with 1,581 and Oklahoma with 1,038. The UA recruits heavily in Texas, where the flagship Texas campuses have become increasingly more competitive. There are 1,565 foreign students at UA.
The out-of-state percentage of campus enrollment seems likely to creep up over time, if incoming freshman classes are any indication.
In 2013, 2,887 of 5,665 freshmen were from Arkansas. In 2014, it was 2,976 of 5,959 or 49.8%. In 2014, 1,455 or almost 25 percent of freshmen, were from Texas. CORRECTION: Puzzling through the UA numbers I discovered two sets of freshman data — one for total enrollment of those classified as freshmen (the previous numbers) and another for "new" freshmen. That number in 2014 showed 2,370 of 4,571, or 52%, of new degree-seeking freshmen were from Arkansas. Of the total, 1,152 were from Texas.
Rates make UA attractive to these students, but so, too, does the quality of education. UA aspires to be a nationally recognized research institution. It and every other UA campus have understandable fears that a competing eVersity — remember these campuses already have on-line instruction themselves — could set back their own adaptation to changing times. What's missing in Bobbitt's plan, perhaps, is a shared campus mission.
UPDATE: I heard from Sen. Joyce Elliott,
who read this item with interest because she's raised questions in budget hearings about the subsidy the state of Arkansas provides at UAF and other campuses to students from neighboring states in giving preferential rates to people who pay no taxes here.
But the real unfairness, Elliott notes, is that we give a cut rate to Texans while Arkansas-raised children of unauthorized immigrants
who graduated from Arkansas high schools (and whose families are paying taxes in Arkansas) not only are barred from in-state tuition, they are also barred from the cut-rate prices given people in neighboring states. It's an outrage.
CLARIFICATION: It is not UA policy to make undocumented children, no matter how deep their Arkansas roots, pay full tuition. That is state law, enforced by Gov. Mike Beebe, on all college campuses.