“All post-secondary students enrolled in public, private or for-profit colleges and universities operating in Arkansas are our customers. To successfully serve those students, we also serve colleges and universities, policy makers, and taxpayers.” Arkansas Department of Higher Education statement, Policy Foundation Efficiency Study report (2016)

(January 2024) Spending on Arkansas higher education increased between 2016 and 2023, according to data posted at a state database. Total higher education operating expenditures grew from $3,391,385,101 (FY 2016) to $4,668,351,544 (FY 2023), a DFA database shows.  Higher education spending increased 37.65% in the period versus  the 26.79% U.S. inflation rate (CPI).

But higher education spending declined when compared to total state operating expenditures. In FY 2016, higher education spending was 14.2% of state total operating expenditures ($23,806,260,606). By FY 2023, higher education spending declined to 13.85% of the state total ($33,685,991,018).

Total operating expenditures at most Arkansas institutions of higher education declined or increased at rates less than inflation. Spending declined at 10 colleges and universities while 15 others reported spending increases less than the inflation rate. Only nine institutions reported spending increases at rates greater than inflation.  These were UAMS (77.7%); East Arkansas Community College (60.0%); Arkansas State-Mountain Home (54.5%); Southern Arkansas-Technical Branch (44.4%); University of Arkansas-Fayetteville (39.5%); North Arkansas College (38.6%); Southeast Arkansas College (33.4%); Rich Mountain Community College (29.5%); and Univ. of AR. Community College-Batesville (27.9%).

The Univ. of Arkansas for Medical Services (UAMS) contributed most of the increase. UAMS total operating expenditures increased 77.7% in the period. In FY 2016, UAMS accounted for 35.4% of total higher education spending. By FY 2023, that amount increased to 45.7% of total higher education spending.

Enrollment Declined in Period

The department was renamed the Arkansas Division of Higher Education as part of former Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s state government reorganization, which reduced the number of state agencies from 43 to 15 in 2019.  The Division of Higher Education reports annual enrollment at state colleges and universities.

In school year 2016-17, total enrollment at public institutions of higher education was 147,619. By school year 2022-23, enrollment fell to 133,302.

Enrollment increased or was flat at most institutions that reported spending increases greater than inflation.

                                                                   2016-17           2022-23

University of Arkansas-Fayetteville                27,194              30,936

UAMS                                                            2,869                 3,240

North Arkansas College                                  1,886                 1,856

Arkansas State-Mountain Home                      1,367                 1,247

East Arkansas Community College                  1,142                1,182

Southern Arkansas-Technical Branch                 779                    943

— Greg Kaza





Arkansas Division of Higher Education, Annual Enrollment Report, 2022-2023


Arkansas Division of Higher Education, Annual Enrollment Report, Fall 2020


Search Term: “Arkansas Higher Education Annual Enrollment Report”