Chancellor Recommends Enrollment Cap at 30,000

Chancellor Joseph Steinmetz in his office at the University of Arkansas.

Chancellor Joseph Steinmetz in his office at the University of Arkansas.

 

By Alex Gladden

Razorback Reporter

The rapid growth for the U of A during the last 10 years could end, Chancellor Joseph Steinmetz said, recommending that 30,000 students are the ideal enrollment.
Steinmetz decided on 30,000 students after he evaluated enrollment models of 27,000, 28,000, 29,000 and 30,000. The models included expenses the university would incur. They also factored in the revenue the UofA generates, mostly from state funding and tuition. UA enrollment grew from 21,405 in 2010 to 27,194 this fall.
“To grow beyond the 30,000 mark would require more funds than additional students would bring,” Steinmetz said in an interview.

Steinmetz announced the goal of 30,000 students during his investiture ceremony Oct. 21.

Toward that goal of 30,000, half of whom would be in-state students, officials also want to keep freshman enrollment at about 5,000 students, said Suzanne McCray, the vice provost for enrollment and the dean of admissions. About 50 percent of those students will be from Arkansas.

Out-of-state students who apply after the Nov. 1 priority deadline, face enrollment qualifications that may be higher than a 3.0 GPA and a 20 on the ACT. Those requirements depend on the number of out-of-state students who already were accepted to the university, McCray said.

Steinmetz wants to focus on increasing the number of graduate students, he said.

To be a competitive research institution, the UofA needs to recruit more graduate students. Graduate students are vital to UA research, Steinmetz said. Graduate students, especially those pursuing doctorates, often assist faculty members in their research, increasing the amount of research conducted.

Graduate students also often teach classes while they pursue their degrees.

Steinmetz would like to increase Graduate School enrollment to about 20 percent of the UofA.

“When I came here, what I was sort of surprised about was that the institution really hadn’t made a decision about what was the ideal size of the university,” Steinmetz said.

To support additional students, officials are planning to build a residence hall on Stadium Drive, said Mike Johnson, the associate vice chancellor for Facilities Management.

The residence hall should be completed in about three years, Johnson said. The UA System’s Board of Trustees approved Modus Studio to design the hall at the board’s meeting Nov. 11.

Pomfret Hall has the largest kitchen of the four cafeterias on campus, so it will be able to support feeding these additional students, Johnson said.

Officials are also looking at replacing the Agriculture Annex and the School of Social Work with more space for these extra students. The buildings are both about 10,000 square feet and are more than 100 years old. Officials could replace the buildings with space that would range from about 55,000 to 60,000 square feet in size, Johnson said.

The Agriculture Annex could be replaced with more class rooms and office spaces, while the School of Social Work could provide a space for a student success center, which would give function similarly to the Jerry & Gene Jones Family Student-Athlete Success Center.

The student-athlete success center provides a place for athletes to seek academic advising and help in classes, according to the center’s website.

Steinmetz was concerned that the quality of a UA education would go down if enrollment exceeds 30,000.

“I think that there is a point where you can have too many students in the university,” Steinmetz said.

Steinmetz also listed increased class sizes as one of his worries about a larger university. If classes get too big, it becomes difficult for students to learn the course’s material.

“It starts to compromise the quality of what you’re delivering,” Steinmetz said.

A version of this report appeared in The Arkansas Traveler.