In his State of the University address, Chancellor Joseph Steinmetz remarked on the future of the UofA, emphasizing how the declining number of college graduates in Arkansas could affect university revenue.
Steinmetz thinks that many students leave the UofA due to financial reasons, he said.
College enrollment rates have decreased by about 300 students from 2012-2016, while high school graduation rates have gone up by about 1,300 students according to the Arkansas Department of Higher Education’s 2017 Annual Comprehensive Report.
Junior Carol Smith thinks UA scholarships do not always take into account individuals’ financial situations. For Smith, paying for school out of her own pocket while maintaining a high GPA has proven difficult, she said.
Nearly 90% of scholarship funding goes to Arkansans and $5 million has been generated to increase need-based scholarships for students from Arkansas, Steinmetz said. An emergency grant fund has also been established to help students experiencing unforeseen financial difficulty.
In order to maintain a stable enrollment, Steinmetz wants to focus on “making a case for college” while attracting and retaining students, he said.
“Increasing retention rate is not only the right thing to do, but it’s good financial stewardship,” Steinmetz said.
The UofA will continue to recruit from neighboring states while keeping a balance of in-state and out-of-state students, Steinmetz said.
UA officials are also implementing new certificate programs in order to generate more tuition revenue, Steinmetz said. Officials added four new masters and graduate degrees and six graduate certificate programs this year. They also plan to add new online programs.
Steinmetz wants to work on extending a transfer scholarship program that allows students from two-year UA System colleges to transfer to the UofA while paying the same tuition rate they paid at the two-year college.
There has been progress in student and faculty success in the last year and construction projects designed to help continue growth, Steinmetz said.
The new Student Success Center is set to open in spring of 2021, Steinmetz said. He thinks that the current lack of research space holds the university back and said that a new facility dedicated to research space is in the planning process.
UA faculty have earned several awards in recent years, Steinmetz said.
Faculty from the College of Engineering received 10 career awards over the last two years, which he says “demonstrates the strength” of the newer hires. Combined with career awards from the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, the UofA has 14 total prestigious career awards.
UA officials created four new positions to help students and staff become more successful at research as well, Steinmetz said. The UofA had a record breaking year when it comes to new inventions and patents.
In the past year, 47% of invention disclosures from the UofA included at least one woman on the team, Steinmetz said. Arkansas is in the top 20 states for female inventors.
The Chancellor wants to bring the university’s general statement to action and plans to send out a series of communications detailing his vision. He thinks that donors will continue to support the university’s new programs, positions, scholarships and world-class facilities.
Steinmetz praised the faculty’s dedication to student success through a holistic approach focusing on one student at a time, he said.
“We’re blessed here at the UofA with outstanding faculty who take seriously their fundamental duty as teachers,” Steinmetz said.