In response to a task force’s recommendations issued in 2008, the Arkansas legislature developed and refined several policies related to college and career readiness, transfer and articulation, and financial aid. Lawmakers also have placed a greater emphasis on using data to inform funding and accountability decisions, and enacted a measure in 2011 to institute a performance-based funding system. To significantly boost the number of college graduates, however, lawmakers should evaluate the impact of state and postsecondary system strategies to increase adult completion rates and meet workforce demands.


How does Arkansas rank compared to the national average?

  • Adults 25-64 with college degrees: 49th (27% vs. 38%)
  • High school graduates going directly to college: 28th (62.5% vs. 63.3%)
  • 25- to 49-year-olds enrolled in college: 33rd (5.6% vs. 7.0%)
  • STEM credentials awarded per 1,000 STEM employees: 16th (69.6% vs. 54.4)
  • Undergraduate awards per 100 FTE undergraduates: 35th (19% vs. 19%)
  • Workers with college degrees earning low wages: 35th (26.2% vs. 22.9%)

For more information, please see the following documents:

Arkansas Data Profile

Arkansas Data PowerPoint

The Access to Success task force has created awareness of degree attainment challenges in Arkansas. If the goals outlined in the task force’s recommendations are met, the state will have to substantially increase degree productivity. To reach its goal, Arkansas will need to decrease attrition rates for young adults and ramp up efforts to enroll a large proportion of adults.

While Arkansas has made developmental education a focal point of the state completion agenda, the structural challenge is to ensure more youth and adults actually graduate. Shoring up the participation side of the postsecondary equation is not enough. The state and postsecondary system should consider ways to leverage lessons learned from the remedial reform effort and translate those approaches to non-remedial settings. Also, the state should find ways to assure graduates that a well-paying job will be waiting for them when they complete. In STEM and high-tech jobs especially, the low supply of jobs or comparatively low wages might force graduates to leave.



Boosting College Completion has produced a comprehensive 50-state legislative database related to college completion and workforce development. The database will grow as we continue to collect and analyze policies.
Highlights of Arkansas’ policies:
  • Amending the Postsecondary Funding Formula – S.B. 766 (2011)
  • Establishing College & Career Readiness Standards – H.B. 1620 (2011)
  • Creating Common Course Numbering & Statewide Minimum Core Curriculum – H.B. 1772 (2011)
  • Setting Minimum Criteria for Concurrent Enrollment in Remedial and College Level Courses – H.B. 2032 (2011)
  • Testing of Entering Freshmen for Remedial Courses – H.B. 1990 (2009)
Check out the BCC database for a more complete summary of Arkansas’ policies. Click on the Menu arrow for additional options, such as printing the summary.

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Boosting College Completion has developed a policy profile for Arkansas based on an analysis of data and policies related to college completion and workforce development.

Arkansas Policy Profile

The Arkansas General Assembly created the Legislative Task Force on Higher Education Remediation, Retention and Graduation Rates in 2007. The task force’s report and set of recommendations defined the core issues and the magnitude of the current completion challenge. The General Assembly responded to the recommendations by developing and refining strategies related to college and career readiness, transfer and articulation, and student financial assistance. However, to reach the state goal of doubling the number of college graduates in the state by 2025, legislators should evaluate the impact of state and system policies on meeting workforce demand and increasing adult completion rates.

While education and workforce challenges cannot be solved immediately, legislative policies and accompanying investments — state, federal and private — can advance education attainment rates and support economic growth. The General Assembly has emphasized the use of data to make funding and accountability decisions. In 2011, Arkansas instituted a performance funding system, which should foster innovation by rewarding institutions that use data and evidence-based practices to propel student achievement. To further achieve their ambitious state goals, policymakers might consider:

  1. Evaluating whether state financial aid programs can be structured to provide greater assurances that students graduate on-time, with less debt and complete degrees in high-demand fields
  2. Examining how performance funding might impact program redesign and whether the legislature can leverage these investments to accelerate learning, reduce time-to-degree and increase institutional productivity
  3. Participating in the scaling of innovative institutional programs that carry a low relative cost yet produce a high impact, especially for low-income and minority youth
  4. Assessing whether policies and strategies focused on developmental education and academic transfer have led to measurable improvements in degree attainment rates
  5. Studying the impact of career pathway programs and whether additional modest investments would improve the advancement of low-income workers into middle-skill jobs through structured, accelerated certificate and associate degree programs.


News & Updates

Policy Leaders




Rep. Eddie Cheatham, Chair, Education Committee





Sen. Jimmy Jeffress, Chair, Education Committee





Sen. Sue Madison, Chair, ALC Higher Education Subcommittee





Rep. Johnnie Roebuck, Chair, ALC Higher Education Subcommittee





Sen. Mary Anne Salmon, Chair, Arkansas Legislative Council


Arkansas is participating in the following national initiatives that are related to college completion and workforce development:

Achieving the Dream (ATD)

American Diploma Project (ADP)

Common Core Standards Initiative

Complete College America (CCA)

Complete College America Innovation Challenge Grant

PARCC Assessment Consortium

Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Program (TAACCCT)


The following resources were produced by Boosting College Completion, state agencies and postsecondary systems.

Arkansas Data Profile

Arkansas Data PowerPoint

Arkansas Policy Profile

Arkansas Department of Higher Education Comprehensive Report, 2010



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