University of Arkansas at Fort Smith boasts 6.8% growth in freshmen enrollment for fall 2023, 2.5% growth in total enrollment

FILE — The bell tower on the campus of the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith

FORT SMITH -- The University of Arkansas at Fort Smith reported seeing a 6.8% increase in its enrollment of first-year entering students this academic year compared to last year, along with a growth in overall enrollment.

A total of 889 first-time undergraduate students are set to attend UAFS this fall, up from 832 in fall 2022, according to a university news release Friday.

Other preliminary "census day" figures UAFS provided indicate the university's enrollment of entering transfer undergraduate students jumped about 1.6% -- from 309 to 314 -- during that same time. Its number of concurrent students also surged from 1,153 to 1,309 for a roughly 13.5% increase.

UAFS' total enrollment for this fall, including graduate students, was calculated at 5,514 in contrast to the 5,379 students from last fall, making for an about 2.5% increase.

"The University of Arkansas-Fort Smith has seen remarkable growth and engagement of new students this fall, almost completely rebounding to pre-covid enrollment of first-year students," Chancellor Terisa Riley said in the news release.

"I can feel the enthusiasm of the students when they're attending Cub Camp, moving into their residence halls and attending events on campus. People are genuinely excited to be here this fall!"

Riley said in the release the university saw "significant increases" in the number of students living in its on-campus housing facilities, up to more than 765.

Riley also went into detail on the UAFS' preliminary enrollment for the year as the keynote speaker of the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce's First Friday Breakfast last week.

Sixty-eight percent of the university's 889 freshmen students this fall are female while 55% are first-generation college students, according to Riley. About 58% of these students received federal Pell grants for financial aid.

Riley provided a breakdown of freshmen students who came to UAFS this semester from local high schools. Fort Smith's Northside and Southside high schools contributed the most students -- 148 and 131 respectively -- while 101 came from Van Buren High School, 54 from Greenwood and 39 from Alma.

"Those are the five top feeder institutions," Riley said.

Riley said enrollment in the university's Western Arkansas Technical Center program also increased by more than 50% since 2019, with it going from 424 in 2022 to 535 this year. The center provides technical and career programming to high school juniors and seniors in 22 school districts in the River Valley.

Rachel Putman, director of communications for UAFS, said the enrollment in the Western Arkansas Technical Center is included in UAFS' count of concurrent students.

Blake Bedsole, UAFS' director of admissions, said in Friday's news release he was "extremely proud" of the university's admissions team and the work they put in this past year.

"Our staff have worked tirelessly to remove barriers to the application and enrollment processes, and on refining our messaging to prospective students and their families concerning the value of a UAFS education and the individualized support that they will receive here," Bedsole said.

Bedsole said the team also implemented comprehensive recruiting strategies and formed a team of recruiters who work to ensure students and their families feel confident UAFS is a suitable fit for them from the beginning of the application process.

Past freshmen enrollment 

The enrollment for first-time entering undergraduate students at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith over the past five fall semesters is as follows:

 2019: 934

 2020: 883

 2021: 813

 2022: 832

 2023: 889

Source: Chancellor Terisa Riley