It’s getting busy as the lunch hour nears at JTown’s Grill on East Johnson Avenue near the Arkansas State University campus in Jonesboro, but Kelly Damphousse has saved me a seat.
Damphousse is the ASU chancellor, and ASU is why Jonesboro is booming. The university has become an economic and cultural engine, helping propel Jonesboro from a population of 27,050 in the 1970 census to more than 76,000 residents today.
While most of the Arkansas Delta has been losing population since 1960, Jonesboro has almost tripled in size. Damphousse, who was raised in a fishing village in northern Canada, wants to keep that engine roaring despite the fact that the number of college-age students is declining.
“We’re trying to figure out what the future holds,” he says. “Too many potential students and their parents now believe that the cost of college is no longer worth it. We must find ways to get the facts in their hands and convince them that it’s worth what they pay. Second, we must get better at keeping students in school once they get here.”
During the past decade, the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville has relied heavily on students from…
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