UACCB sees highest enrollment increase over last five years among state community colleges

Students sign their commitment to complete during new student orientation

While community colleges across the state are struggling with enrollment, the University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville saw the highest enrollment increase among community colleges in the state over the last five years. UACCB also saw the second highest enrollment increase among community colleges across the state this fall.

According to the fall 2019 preliminary enrollment report released by the Arkansas Department of Higher Education, UACCB’s head count for the fall was 1,480 students, a 11.20% increase over the institution’s fall 2018 enrollment. The fall enrollment is 12.40% higher than enrollment five years ago.

Greg Thornburg, vice chancellor for student affairs, presented an enrollment report to the college’s board of visitors during its quarterly meeting October 17. Thornburg noted that UACCB’s enrollment numbers exceeded state averages for community colleges. The state average enrollment at community colleges saw a 1.4% increase over the last year and a 14% decline over the last five years.

Thornburg added that not only does UACCB have more students this fall, but they are also taking full course loads. Student semester credit hours were up 8.92% over last fall. “There is a phrase used within the Guided Pathways movement, ‘15 to finish,’ meaning students take 15 credit hours per semester, which is considered a full course load, until graduation,” Thornburg said. This in turn saves students time and money by keeping them on track to graduate on time. 

“The overarching tenants of Guided Pathways are to help students achieve their academic goals on time and without excessive credits,” said Dr. Brian Shonk, vice chancellor for academic affairs.

Deborah Frazier, chancellor of UACCB, added that the state productivity funding model took time to degree into consideration when providing funding to community colleges. 

UACCB officially launched Guided Pathways this fall, a movement to streamline students’ path from admission into college to graduation and optimize the student experience. Funding from Citizens Bank enabled the collaboration between UACCB and Dr. Rob Johnstone, founder and president of the National Center for Inquiry and Improvement, to launch Guided Pathways.

Shonk said that UACCB’s success did not happen overnight, noting that the college continuously re-evaluates processes to ensure students are provided with the services they need in order to achieve success.

“The groundwork for our current student success initiatives was set in place just over 10 years ago when the college, with the assistance of federal grant funding, moved to a centralized advising model with the creation of an academic advising center staffed with professional advisors,” Shonk said. “This groundwork paved the way well for Guided Pathways. In our new model, students are required to meet with their assigned academic advisor prior to registering for classes each semester. Additionally, advisors attempt to meet with their advisees at least two more times throughout each semester.”

In addition to improvements in the advising center, Frazier said the college has made efforts to examine all elements of student success. “UACCB strives to support students in all aspects of their educational journey, whether it be through increasing access to tutors through programs like Sunday Study Stop, the development of new degree programs that will give students the skills that local employers are seeking, or the addition of the food pantry on campus to help with food insecurity,” she said. “We’re doing a lot of little things right, and by bringing all the pieces of the puzzle together, we are helping students not only achieve their academic goals, but we help them to develop the skills necessary to be productive citizens within the community.”  

In other business, the board of visitors:

• Approved moving forward with the development of a construction technology degree program. The program would consist of an associate degree in construction technology, a technical certificate in construction technology and certificates of proficiency in carpentry, masonry, and drywall installation and finishing. The proposed degree program will go before the University of Arkansas board of trustees for approval.

• Heard a construction update on the workforce training center from Gayle Cooper, vice chancellor for finance and administration. The new center is projected to be completed at the end of the year. The 15,000-square-foot facility will house UACCB’s industrial technology programs along with a makerspace that will provide the facilities and equipment for students and volunteers to collaborate and bring creative ideas to life. The space will have large format printers, computers with high-processing capabilities, 3D printers and scanners, electronic components such as small motors and a variety of metal and woodworking tools from hand tools to CNC mills and lathes.

• Heard an update from Kim Whitten, director of institutional advancement. Whitten said the annual UACCB Foundation Golf Tournament was a success and raised enough to fully fund an endowed scholarship in memory of Woody Castleberry, a longtime advocate for the community college. Whitten also shared information about an employee giving drive called “Be the Change You Want to See in the World.” Whitten said faculty and staff were encouraged to take piggy banks provided by the foundation to collect change in throughout the semester. The funds will be collected on Dec. 3 in conjunction with Giving Tuesday and will benefit the UACCB Foundation unrestricted fund. Board members as well as community organizations and businesses were invited to participate in the drive as well, Whitten said. She added that Centennial Bank had committed to providing matching funds. Whitten concluded her report with the announcement that the foundation can now accept donations online at uaccbfoundation.org.

• Heard an update from Dr. Anne Austin, vice chancellor for research, planning and assessment, concerning Perkins funding reauthorization. Perkins V, or the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, was signed into law in July 2018 and went into effect July 1, 2019. She said UACCB receives $80,000-$85,000 in Perkins funding annually that has been used to purchase equipment such as the simulation mannequins for the nursing and allied health department. 

• Voted to reaffirm the community college’s mission statement.