The Arkansas General Assembly established the university in Fayetteville in 1871 as the Arkansas Industrial University, and under the Morrill Act of 1862, it became the state land-grant institution and first state-assisted college in Arkansas. On opening day, January 22, 1872, there were four teachers and eight students. Arkansas Industrial University became the University of Arkansas in 1899, reflecting the institution’s broadened academic mission.
In 1873, the university established a campus in Pine Bluff, which was named Branch Normal College and later designated as a land-grant institution under the second Morrill Act of 1890. The college separated from the university in 1927 and was renamed Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical & Normal (AM&N) College. It rejoined the UA System in 1972 when it became the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, the state’s oldest and largest historically black college. In 1879, the university accepted responsibility for academic management and operation of a privately established nonprofit medical campus in Little Rock. This campus merged into the system in 1911, and is now known as the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
In 1959, the UA Board of Trustees created the Division of Agriculture as a separate administrative entity charged to coordinate an integrated agriculture program. The division is comprised of two principal units: the Agriculture Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service. In 1969, Little Rock University joined the UA System, becoming the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, the state’s leading metropolitan campus. In 1971, Arkansas A&M College joined the system and became the University of Arkansas at Monticello. The UAM Colleges of Technology in Crossett and McGehee were added in 2003.
Phillips Community College in Helena joined the system in 1996, becoming Phillips Community College of the University of Arkansas. The college soon added campuses in Stuttgart and DeWitt. Also in 1996, Red River Technical College in Hope joined the system and was renamed the University of Arkansas Community College at Hope. In 1998, Gateway Technical College in Batesville joined the system with the passage of a county sales tax and was renamed the University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville, serving Independence and Cleburne counties. In 2001, Petit Jean College joined the system and was renamed the University of Arkansas Community College at Morrilton. Also in 2001, Cossatot Technical College joined the system and was renamed Cossatot Community College of the University of Arkansas. The college is located in De Queen with satellite campuses in Nashville and Ashdown. In 2002, Westark Community College joined the system and was renamed the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith, beginning its transition from a two-year to a four-year institution.
More recent additions to the UA System include the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts on January 1, 2004, the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service on July 1, 2004, and the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute in 2006. The UA Board of Trustees approved a resolution in 2012 to develop a System-wide online initiative, and the UA System launched eVersity – the state’s first 100 percent-online university – in September 2015. The system grew its community college membership in 2017 with the addition of University of Arkansas Pulaski Technical College, based in North Little Rock, and the University of Arkansas Community College at Rich Mountain, based in Mena.