There have been numerous reports of good news across Arkansas in the past few weeks. Enrollment is going up at college campuses and universities.

The University of Arkansas at Fayetteville reported a 2 percent increase in tuition, partly due to the largest freshman class in the institution’s history. Enrollment this semester is 26,754.

Arkansas State University at Jonesboro also reported an enrollment increase of 2 percent. Its student population is now 13,410.

It appears that Arkansas Tech at Russellville will again be the third largest institution of higher education in the state this year. Its fall enrollment is 12,007, an increase of 2 percent over 2014.

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock reported that 11,848 students have enrolled for its fall semester and the University of Central Arkansas at Conway reported 11,754 students. Those were slight increases over last year.

Southern Arkansas University at Magnolia had an increase of 16.7 percent, to 4,138 students. The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff reported an increase in enrollment of 6.1 percent, to a total of 2,666. That includes 685 freshmen, a jump of 38 percent more than the 496 freshmen who enrolled for the first time last year.

For several years it has been a goal of legislators, business leaders and educators to increase the number of Arkansas students who earn a college degree. According to a recent study, the average salary for someone with a degree from a four-year university is $45,000 a year, compared to $28,000 a year for someone with a high school diploma.

It’s not simply an economic issue. According to researchers, people with a college degree reported greater job satisfaction, regardless of their income.

In related news, the University of Arkansas system told legislators that in the first six days that its online university was open, 81 people completed applications. It is called eVersity.

Classes cost $165 per credit hour and textbooks are available online and included in the cost of the classes, a university official said.

Compared to traditional college students, the applicants to eVersity were quite a bit older. Their average age was 37. The oldest was 67 and the youngest was 17. A third were minorities, about 60 percent were women and two thirds were first time college students, the official said.

Legislators were encouraged by the affordability of the eVersity, and the fact that students can tailor class time to their schedules.

Charter schools

Six school districts have applied to the state Board of Education for approval of charter schools in the 2016-2017 school year. They are in Cave City, Fayetteville, Gentry, Gravette, Hot Springs and Springdale.

If the Board approves, the schools would be exempt from some state education requirements, such as for teacher licensing and scheduling.

Approved charter schools can customize class offerings to students’ needs. For example, Cave City proposes to add an hour to its daily schedule for students without Internet access at home. The Fayetteville proposal would be a virtual academy for 500 students who would be able to participate in athletics, drama and music. Students at the Springdale charter, if it is approved, could earn industry certificates from classwork with local businesses.

If you have any questions or comments about legislative issues, contact me at terry.rice@senate.ar.gov or call me at (479) 650-9712.