In checking data on minority enrollment at the University of Arkansas
yesterday, I noted that full fall 2015 enrollment data is available on the UA website
, so here's a quick review of a topic that has drawn some interest from legislators and others — the rise in enrollment of students from out of state at the state-supported university.
I'll focus on undergraduate enrollment, which was at 22,159. Here's the enrollment, by class, with the number of Arkansans in each class.
Freshman: 6,322 3,046 48.2%
Sophomore: 4,613 2,526 54.8%
Junior: 4,730 2,726 57.6%
Senior: 6,485 3,980 61.4%
I'd guess that rising Arkansas residency through the undergraduate classes could be explained in part by students establishing residency in the state — to vote, for example.
There's a decided tuition advantage to Arkansas residency. But the university has broadened its appeal by giving a significant tuition break to students from neighboring states (and Illinois will be added next year to tap the Chicago market) who meet a minimum academic benchmark (a 3.2 GPA and 24 on the SAT).
For next year, students from qualifying states can get a reduction from 70 to 90 percent of the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition, on a sliding scale pegged to grades and scores (a 3.6 GPA and 28 ACT for the biggest discount). This is a significant savings. Tuition this year for an out-of-state student is $20,332 for two 15-hour semesters. With the 90 percent discount, it would be $8,358. For residents, it's $7,028.
The offer has proved particularly attractive in Texas (and the UA markets heavily there with advertising, campus visits and a football game every year in Dallas), where the top state universities have become increasingly selective.
In this year's freshman class, 1,715 came from Texas, or 27 percent of the class. Other border state enrollees: Kansas, 190; Missouri, 382; Oklahoma, 289; Tennessee, 112; Louisiana, 32, and Mississippi, 13. Altogether, 2,733 students, or 43 percent, came from those states.
The university says broadening the UA's reach is part of increasing the school's stature and qualifications of its students. That has not always soothed legislators voting on state expenditures for higher education. It has particularly rankled those, like Sen. Joyce Elliott,
who note that Arkansas students who lack U.S. residency documents — but who've lived in Arkansas with immigrant parents since childhood and hold Arkansas high school diplomas — don't qualify for in-state tuition rates no matter how high their test scores, while about 4,800 undergraduate Texans can qualify for tuition discounts. (This is a statewide policy applicable in all state schools — no breaks for undocumented Arkansans.)
The university is increasingly becoming a national school.
There are fewer Arkansas students enrolling as freshmen today than 10 years ago — 3,046 freshmen this year compared with 3,269 in 2005. But the overall size of the freshman class has grown from 4,495 to 6,322 in 2015 thanks to the rise in out-of-state students. In 2015, 13,855 UA students — graduate and undergraduate — were Arkansas residents of 17,821 enrolled, or 77.7 percent. This year the number was 15,237 of 26,754, or 56.9 percent.