Thursday, October 6, 2011

Week In Review

State Capitol Week in Review

LITTLE ROCK – Legislators got a double dose of good news last week - enrollment is on the increase in Arkansas colleges and universities while the number of juveniles getting in trouble and being sent to lockups has gone down.

To top it off, state government revenue for September was up slightly from last year. Budget officials remain cautious, but an increase in revenue indicates economic growth and is welcome.

When juveniles get in trouble, unless they commit a serious offense and are charged as adults, they come under the jurisdiction of the state Division of Youth Services. Most of them receive counseling and supervision in a community program, but some offenders are committed to a secure detention facility.

Last year 480 juveniles were placed in a secure lockup, down from 631 commitments two years ago. Youth services officials attribute the decline to the fact that juvenile judges are sending more youths to the counseling and intervention programs, which are run by 13 organizations that contract with the state.

The decline is also due to the fact that fewer adolescents were brought into court for delinquency. The number of juvenile cases has fallen from 11,534 in 2008 to 9,773 last year.

Another positive development is attributable to the success of the community programs. The recidivism rate over a three year period, in other words the percentage of repeat offenders who get in trouble again after they are released from custody, has dropped significantly for Arkansas juveniles.

From 1997 through 2007 about three in four juveniles were arrested again within three years of their release. For the past three years the recidivism rate has declined to 27.8 percent, according to the director of the Youth Services Division.

College Enrollment

The Higher Education Department reported that enrollment in Arkansas colleges and universities is up 2.1 percent this school year, compared to 2010. The total number of students earning credits in an institution of higher education is 176,114.

Several campuses have seen a decline in enrollment and several others experienced only slight gains. One reason was that they had raised admission standards. Although higher admission standards results slows enrollment growth in the short term, in the long term it should improve retention rates. All Arkansas colleges and universities are trying to increase the number of graduates.

Arkansas is on a par with other southern states in terms of high school graduates going to college. However, too many Arkansas students never finish college. The four-year universities in Arkansas are improving their retention rates, according to the director of the Higher Education Department. They awarded 9,392 degrees in 2009, which was 10.5 percent more than the previous year.

State Revenue in September

In September the state collected $462.8 million in net available revenue. That is 5.5 percent more than was collected in September last year. For the first three months of the fiscal year, net revenue is up 2.7 percent over last year.

State budget officials project that the state will collect total net revenue of $4.57 billion in the current fiscal year.

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