College of the Ouachitas Gains Highest Enrollment Among Two-Year Colleges in Arkansas

Malvern, AR -- College of the Ouachitas (COTO) reported today higher fall enrollment compared to the previous year. For Fall 2013, the College realized a 6.1 percent increase with 1,498 students enrolled. Full-time equivalent enrollment (total number of course credits enrolled divided by 15 – the number of credits per semester considered as full-time) is up 5.1 percent at 897.7. The College received national recognition this week regarding its significant enrollment increase in the most recent edition of the Community College Times.  Read the story at

Of the 22 two-year colleges in Arkansas, only six experienced an increase in enrollment from Fall 2012 to Fall 2013.  College of the Ouachitas had the greatest increase; the next highest increase in the state for two-year colleges was less than half of COTO’s increase at 3.0 percent by Phillips Community College of the University of Arkansas in eastern Arkansas. 
College of the Ouachitas President, Dr. Stephen Schoonmaker, credits the enrollment increase to several factors. “As a Top Ten Community College in the nation, College of the Ouachitas is being recognized as a premiere institution of higher education.  People see an increase in the value of an education from us.”

Schoonmaker continued, “The College is making strong efforts to provide community awareness regarding what the College we have to offer. Additionally, the College is developing new innovative programs relevant to our local communities.” Since Schoonmaker took over the reins at COTO 21 months ago, Schoonmaker has met with businesses and industries in the region to find out what they need for their workforces. As a result of these conversations, the College started a new mechatronics program, as well as pre-engineering offerings for high school students. Both programs, and COTO’s new Honors College, have attracted new students.

Vice President of Student Affairs Donna Hill remarked, “Over the past 18 months, we've focused on getting students involved as soon as they step on campus, since we know they're more likely to succeed if they feel like they belong. With a new 45-minute break in the schedule, students can take part in activities, visit with staff and faculty, or just hang out with each other. We've added new clubs and organizations, and we're going out into the community to connect with students before they ever step foot on campus.”
Hill affirmed, “The word is spreading that we care about our students.  One of our recruiters has often said that COTO is the best-kept secret in central Arkansas. I think the secret has finally gotten out.”