When the University of Arkansas announced that preliminary numbers showed a rise in UA enrollment this year to more than 26,000, I made a few inquiries to prepare for later official figures and my continuing interest in Arkansas’s recruitment of out-of-state students.
Last year, 48 percent of new freshmen were from out of state, with Texas accounting for about a quarter of the class. Correction from earlier: I miswrote the figures to which I linked. It was not 48 percent from in-state as I originally wrote. . But this year, a majority of new freshmen , 51 percent, WERE from out of state. Out-of-state and foreign enrollment accounted for 46 percent of total students.
Arkansas pushes to get out-of-state programs with a significant tuition break for what are essentially border-states — Texas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Kansas, Tennessee, Louisiana and Mississippi. This is not termed a neighbor state program, but a “non-resident tuition award scholarship.” They get credit for anywhere from 70 to 90 percent of the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition based on GPA and test scores, with a 70 percent break going to those with a 3.2 GPA and 24 ACT.
Arkansas recruits heavily in Texas, where enrollment in the flagship campuses would be difficult for many of those who come to UA. Athletic Director Jeff Long said recently that the decision to play a football game in Dallas every year was not just about recruiting Texas football players but recruiting Texas students. Some defend the practice. Some don’t. The UA, after all, enjoys a heavy subsidy from Arkansas taxpayers. A 3.2 and 24 ACT carries no automatic benefit for in-state students. Some, like Sen. Joyce Elliott, object because an out-of-state tuition is charged Arkansas high school graduates who came to the U.S. as children of undocumented workers. No matter how high their scores or how long they’ve lived in Arkansas, state policy prevents state schools like UA from giving them a break.
This is all a long introduction to say that this year’s figures aren’t ready yet, but I did get an answer to something that interested me. Illinois is going to be added to the list of neighboring states eligible for a tuition break for entering freshmen next fall.
Illinois? Chicago is a good 640 miles from Fayetteville. I got this explanation:
From Suzanne McCray, dean of admissions:
Illinois was added to the New Arkansan Non-Resident Tuition Award program this August for students in next year’s freshman class — the fall of 2016. The goal is to expand the mix of states, not the number of out-of-state students. The University of Arkansas is determined to keep at least a 50/50 split in the freshman class, and no qualified Arkansas student will be denied admission. The U of A wants to increase our national reach. There are direct flights from Northwest Arkansas to Chicago, and we think we can attract high achieving students.
As cost for out-of-state students go up, we also want to make sure we are casting a sufficiently broad net as well to maintain a robust, diverse class.
Hey, Chicago is 300 miles closer than El Paso, whose high school students also can get a break if they decide to Go Hog.