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story.lead_photo.caption Sen. Cecile Bledsoe

LITTLE ROCK -- Arkansas students who are college bound continued to show improvement on tests that determine whether they need to take remedial courses in order to bring their academics up to college level.

If high school graduates do not score 19 or better on the ACT standardized test, they must catch up their first year in college by enrolling in a remedial class. The ACT is the most commonly used college entrance exam for Arkansas schools, and it has components in math, English and reading.

In 2014 when the fall semester began, 41.4 percent of students enrolling in colleges and universities were required to take a remedial class because of low test scores. Last fall, that rate had gone down significantly, to 39.7 percent.

The drop in remediation rates continues the steady improvement shown by Arkansas students over the past few years. In 2011, the remedial rate was 47.7 percent and in 2009 it was 54 percent. A major factor in the improvement is that schools have imposed stronger education standards, and high schools are offering more academically rigorous, college preparatory curricula.

Higher education officials have made it a goal to increase retention and thus increase the number of Arkansans with a degree. It is a goal shared by business and government leaders, because technology and communications companies that pay well are more likely to create jobs in areas with a well-educated workforce.

Surveys have shown that students who have to begin college by taking remedial classes are less likely to stay in school and graduate with a degree.

Total enrollment in Arkansas higher education institutions is down slightly from last year, continuing a trend of steady decline since 2011, when almost 177,000 students attended two-year colleges and four-year universities. This school year, the total enrollment is about 167,000 students.

Enrollment at four-year universities has increased slightly since 2011, from about 96,500 to about 99,500. Over the same period, enrollment at two-year colleges went down from about 62,000 to about 50,500 students.

Of all the students in Arkansas four-year universities, 57 percent are women. The disparity is greater at two-year colleges, where 61 percent are female.

Of all the students of higher education in Arkansas, 19,628 are in graduate school, 17,808 are in high school but taking college courses for credit and 129,857 are undergraduates. Of the total, 82.7 percent are from Arkansas, 5 percent are from Texas, 3.4 percent are from foreign countries and 2 percent are from Missouri.

There are 10 public four-year universities in Arkansas, not counting the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences at Little Rock. There are 22 public two-year colleges.

The average annual faculty salary at Arkansas universities is $65,173, which is at the bottom of the rankings of the 16 states in the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB). Delaware is first, with an average of more than $100,000. Virginia is second with average faculty salaries of about $87,000.

The average faculty salary at Arkansas two-year colleges is $43,845 a year, which is next to the last among SREB states. Louisiana is last with an average salary of $43,772 and Maryland is first with an average annual salary of $61,849.

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Editor's note: Arkansas Senator Cecile Bledsoe represents the third district. From Rogers, Sen. Bledsoe is chair of the Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee and vice chair of Senate Efficiency; ALC-JBC budget hearings, Joint Budget Committee; Joint Budget Committee, pre-fiscal session budget hearings; JBC, personnel; State & Public School Life & Health Insurance task force; Insurance & Commerce, Senate; Legislative joint auditing; Legislative Joint Auditing, educational institutions; Legislative Joint Auditing, Medicaid subcommittee; and Community Services Oversight & Planning Council.

Editorial on 02/10/2017

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