AR universities breaking streak as enrollment numbers fall

Universities in Arkansas are seeing their enrollment go down. The slight drop in students comes after years of increases.

University of Arkansas at Little Rock is just one of the many universities in the state to see their numbers go down. The semester is just starting so numbers are not set in stone just yet. But school officials say changes in a major grant could be to blame.

"About half of how I am paying for school is coming from loans," said Bryan Runion, a student at UALR."I'm going into debt. I'm already at like $20,000 and I'm only a sophomore," he said.

A preliminary report released by the Arkansas Department of Higher Education says there has been a dip in enrollment at two and four year universities. Rising tuition along with a change in a major grant could be to blame.

"Another large reason we've heard from the institutions is the change in Pell Grants from sixteen semesters to twelve semesters. So we have a number of students who are not able to finish college," said Shane Broadway, Interim Director at the Arkansas Department of Higher Education.

A Pell Grant is a $5,500 award given to students in need and they do not have to pay it back. The problem is now less students will qualify, particularly those who need it the most.

"about forty percent of our students in Arkansas are part-time and so it takes a number of semesters for them to be able to finish," said Broadway.

Officials are not sure if the trend will continue. But students say things do not seem to be getting any easier.

"It seems like it get's a little harder. I'm working more," said Brian Rayburn, also a student. "I guess if you can't pay for all of it and you're parents can't help you then you get a second job," he said.

The only schools that did see an increase in their enrollment are the University of Arkansas and Arkansas Tech University.