Andrew Rogerson
, chancellor of UA Little Rock, said the hiring and purchasing freezes imposed last week were “prudent” steps to assure the school finishes the year in the black, with a key underlying cause a decline in full-time students.

I wrote last week about Rogerson’s memo on a purchasing and hiring freeze for the remainder of this budget year, which ends June 30.

He said undergraduate enrollment was down by about 480 students in the spring, but that was partially due to mid-year graduates.

A more concerning change was a drop in student semester credit hours. “We found the number taking a full course load was way down. We lost a lot of residential or full-time students. That really cost us — about a 12 percent drop, or about $5.5 million.”

Why? He’s not ready to speculate.

“We’re really looking into this.”

However …… A petition drive by students reported in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette contends that the presence of the eStem charter school on the campus has diminished the quality of college life through the disruptive presence of high school students, who’ve also stressed dining and parking facilities. Others have speculated this has led to a drop in enrollment of conventional college students. Little Rock has long drawn many “non-conventional” students — those returning to complete courses or enhance education as older adults.

Campus life is a factor most important to full-time students, particularly those who live in residence halls. Rogerson said the campus residence halls have 400 empty beds.

He said he remained optimistic and had brought in two former UA Little Rock leaders to work on an enrollment strategy for fall to stabilize the number. He said he was confident the spending freezes would fix the budget this year. And he’s hopeful local support for the university continues to help at the legislature and elsewhere.

“Last year we graduated 2,062 into the local economy. 384 had master’s or graduate certificates and 109 were doctoral degrees. We’re putting out a huge number of students with higher degrees. That’s our value to city.” He likes to note that UA Little Rock is one of only three Arkansas universities certified as a research institution, a type of education that’s more expensive to provide than simple undergraduate courses.

I asked about negotiations with eStem on issues raised previously about the school’s presence on campus, a deal negotiated without faculty involvement by former Chancellor Joel Anderson.

He said he’d been meeting with the privately run but publicly funded school, which has enjoyed heavy support from the Walton Family Foundation. A month ago, he said he’d drawn up a proposal to lease eStem space in a building adjacent to the high school building as a place for students to congregate and for high school student food service. This would relieve pressure on the Donaghey Student Center. The 1.5-year lease agreement also includes a revised memorandum of understanding that Rogerson said primarily provided the parties would work together. “It went off two weeks ago, I’m waiting to hear.”

In past articles about UA Little Rock concerns about eStem, eStem officials haven’t agreed that high school students were disruptive on the campus or that parking was a particular problem. The ideas that eStem would serve to provide a stream of students to the college or that the college and high school could combine on education programs haven’t come to fruition.