Record enrollment

UA students waiting to purchase their meals at 1021 Food Hall create an overflow line outside the building.

The UofA’s record-breaking enrollment for fall 2021 has necessitated the rehousing of some students, strained the under-staffed transit system and caused campus crowding.

On the 11th day of the fall 2021 semester, 29,068 students were enrolled at the university, according to the Office of Institutional Research. There were approximately 6,064 degree-seeking students enrolled as freshmen. About 1,400 more freshmen and 1,500 more students total are enrolled this fall than in the 2019 or 2020 fall semesters.

Upon realizing how many admitted students were enrolling, UA officials did everything they could to ensure that campus was ready for students, said Suzanne McCray, vice provost of enrollment management. The COVID-19 pandemic is one reason for the overabundance of students this year, she said.

“Because of the pandemic, many prospective students were not able to (take standardized tests) adequately,” McCray said. “In order to support these students, we offered test-optional admission for the fall of 2021. Prospective students responded to this in greater numbers than we anticipated.”

Some students intending to live in residence halls had to move into off-campus apartments because of the record-breaking size of the first-year class, said Christopher Spencer, assistant director for marketing and strategic communications.

“Upper-level students who contracted after the returning student priority deadline in March were the group from which these students were chosen,” Spencer said.

Allie Thome, a freshman and member of the Razorback swimming and diving team, said her coach gave her and her teammates the choice to move off campus, and she is grateful that she chose to.

“I was originally supposed to be in Harding Hall, the quads, but was notified of a possible move in early July,” Thome said. “My roommates and I decided to officially move to the off-campus apartment a few weeks later.”

Living in an off-campus apartment has been enjoyable, Thome said. Being in an apartment makes her feel more independent, and she likes having her own space.

Thome and her family were concerned about the move because they worried she would be missing out on the typical freshman experience, she said. Despite being away from other freshmen living on campus, Thome has found other ways to get connected.

“I have been meeting people inside my classes,” Thome said, “I am very close with my roommates and the rest of my teammates, so I am not deprived of any social activities.”

Campus crowding has caused transportation challenges for many students. Both on- and off-campus students have struggled to find favorable parking or had to adjust to overcrowded buses running on reduced schedules while Razorback Transit is short-staffed.

Bailee Smith, a senior who lives 20 minutes from campus, said she usually leaves her home an hour and 40 minutes before her first class begins at 9:40, and tries to park in Lot 74. She then takes a Razorback Transit bus to central campus. Despite planning ahead, Smith has had some close calls trying to get to class on time, she said.

“The one thing I have noticed is that the buses have hit capacity extremely fast with everyone being back on campus,” she said. “That has been my biggest issue because it affects when I’m actually able to get to class and if I’m on time or not.”

Upperclassmen have also noticed long lines this school year at various dining facilities, including 1021 Food Hall and the Union Food Court.

“Sometimes the lines can be frustrating but most of the time I feel like the (1021 Food Hall) workers get things done swiftly,” said Kamryn Thorne, a junior.

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