Ellis Arnold, the President of Hendrix College, spoke as the guest speaker at the weekly Conway Noon Lions Club meeting Tuesday, where he highlighted the college’s success during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond over the past year.
During his speech at the Lions Club meeting, Arnold highlighted what he called the PPP – pandemic, progress and priorities for the college.
For the pandemic part of the Ps, Arnold praised Hendrix’s board for its unanimous decision to go fully remote for the 2020 fall semester. Arnold said that the decision was an expensive one due to all the money the college lost from room and board, but he said it was worth it.
“It was a sobering decision, but everyone on the board, looking back at it, felt that it was the right decision,” he said.
The following semester, in January of this year, 87 percent of students returned to campus where every student did surveillance testing every week, which helped the university achieve a 0.7 percent positivity rate for the entire semester. Now, 97 percent of all Hendrix students are vaccinated with 91 percent of employees and 100 percent of the full-time faculty being vaccinated as well. The positivity rate at the campus remains below 1 percent, according to Arnold.
As for the progress Hendrix has had over the year, Arnold highlighted the university’s high admissions rate over the past couple of years – a distinction compared to the rest of the state and country as a whole.
“These are hard times for colleges and universities across the country,” he said. “Almost every single school in the state has their demographics down. In fall of 2019, we hit our lowest number of admissions we’ve had in a long time, but in the last couple of years we’ve turned it around again. We’ve had more applicants for admissions this past year than we’ve ever had in the history of the college.”
For the future priorities for Hendrix, Arnold said that the university is trying to increase its visibility across the country, specifically looking at targeting the Dallas/Fort Worth area as well as Northwest Arkansas. The university has run campaigns through NWA public radio station to get people to come to Hendrix.
Arnold also praised Hendrix’s recent “tuition reset” which lowered the college’s tuition by 32 percent.
“That’s hard to do and still figure out how you’re going to make it out in the end,” he said. “It was a noble thing for our board to do, but it was the right thing to do.”
He also praised the college’s “Hendrix Five” plan which allowed students whose college experience was interrupted due to the pandemic to get a fifth year of college for free, which 25 students used.