Student growth expected to level out

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While the enrollment at UCA has steadily climbed since Lu Hardin became president in 2002, Jack Gillean, vice president for administration, said Hardin expects enrollment to be the same when the current freshmen graduate.

“Enrollment last year was 10,400 and this year is 11,700,” Gillean said.

Four years ago it was 8,500. Expected enrollment is 12,000 for the next four years.

More than 1,100 students enrolled are taking classes online or are high school students from Faulkner County, neither of which take up parking, housing or classroom space.

“The last new classroom building was Thompson Hall,” Gillean said. “The governor has indicated that the state bond issue for Arkansas higher education would be voted on at the general election on Nov. 7.”

If the bond passes, UCA would receive $13 million, most of which would be used for construction of a new business building located south of Wingo Hall.

“If the issue doesn’t pass, we will try to finance ourselves through bonds or private funding,” Gillean said. “The current business building will be used for classroom space for the College of Liberal Arts.”

The most recent construction projects, University Park and the Jefferson D. Farris Jr. Honors Hall, were prompted by the increase in the number of students living on campus, which grew from 3,800 to 4,200 in the past year.

Farris Honors Hall, housing Honors College upperclassmen, replaces the former senior honors dorm that is now Short and Denney Residential College.

“As a result of freshmen sharing rooms, the occupancy for the old building has doubled,” Director of Housing and Residence Life Chris Charlton said.

While Conway’s economy as a whole has been boosted by this growth, not all businesses have seen more profit.

According to Andy Wells, general manager at Marketplace Grill, there used to be just a handful of restaurants in the area, but in the past few years many new ones have opened, such as Chili’s and San Francisco Bread Company.

“More money is being spent in town, but it has created a situation where a lot of new businesses have opened up; therefore, our business has been fairly consistent over the past three years despite the growth of Conway and UCA,” Wells said.

Attendance in local churches has increased significantly.

“In the fall of 2003, we recognized that the population of college students in Conway was rapidly increasing,” Fellowship Bible Church’s college pastor David Davies said. “President Hardin’s leadership had UCA on an aggressive path, and the other schools in Conway were, in some ways, caught in the tow. Fellowship has increased it budget for its college ministry each of the last four years in order to offer more options and opportunities for college students to know Christ and grow in their knowledge of him.”

“This is a trend we are committed to continue because we feel that people ‘become who they are’ while they are in college.”

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