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How enrollment has changed for local school system, universities

Text and Graphs by JOEL PHELPS | The Arkadelphian

Arkadelphia is a city of academic institutions, and the local economy’s success relies on a population of students and educators. Now that the first weeks of school are gone and the fall semester is in full swing, local educational entities have been able to announce the total number of students enrolled.

In seeking a broader picture of how the most recent numbers measure to past years, The Arkadelphian requested enrollment figures in five-year increments dating to 2007 from Arkadelphia Public Schools, Henderson State University and Ouachita Baptist University.

Arkadelphia Public Schools

For 2022, administration reported an enrollment of 1,827 pupils at Arkadelphia Public Schools. While that figure inched up by a few students over the last year, the district has seen a significant drop in students in the past several years. This year’s enrollment shows 227 fewer students than the district had 15 years ago.

In 2007 the school district enrolled 2,054 students. By 2012 that number dropped to 1,978 students, and by 2017 the district had dipped as low as 1,776 students. The good news for Arkadelphia Schools is the district is seeing an uptick in enrollment, as it has gained 51 students in the past five years.

Henderson State University

The School with a Heart has also historically been the institution with the largest pool of students in Arkadelphia, although that could change in coming years as the university struggles with finances and unfavorable publicity. According to figures provided by the institution, Henderson’s overall enrollment dropped by 378 students between 2021 and 2022.

Henderson, however, looks at the bright side. Enrollment this fall showed increases in first-time freshman and graduate student enrollment despite a decrease in returning undergraduate students. Enrollment for Fall 2022 is 2,536 students compared to 2,914 students in Fall 2021. 

In 2007, Henderson had a fall enrollment of 3,291 students. The student population grew to 3,576 in 2012 but dropped to 3,342 students in 2017.

Ouachita Baptist University

The Tigers, on the bright side, are definitely growing in numbers. For the past two years the private institution has reported record enrollment numbers. The headcount in 2022 was 1,784 pupils, the university’s highest in 56 years.

In 2007 Ouachita reported an enrollment of 1,448 students, and grew to 1,532 in 2012. There were 1,545 students enrolled in the fall semester of 2017, and by 2021 the university had gained an additional 219 students, totaling 1,764.

Ouachita’s enrollment surge, however, has its newly re-launched graduate program to thank. The graduate programs made a comeback in 2020 for the first time since the 1990s.

Overall student population

The average sum of students from all three institutions in the years provided is 6,672 pupils per year. This average includes students from kindergarten to graduate school. According to these statistics, 2012 was a strong year for Arkadelphia, when the total sum was 7,086 students enrolled; 2017 was average based on The Arkadelphian‘s statistics, with a total sum of 6,663 students; and 2022’s total enrollment sum is 525 students below the 15-year average.

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