LITTLE ROCK — Just over 1 in 3 freshmen who enrolled at Arkansas universities last fall needed remediation, and the 34.5 percent rate was the lowest since the state began keeping records nearly 20 years ago, the state Department of Higher Education reported Tuesday.

LITTLE ROCK — Just over 1 in 3 freshmen who enrolled at Arkansas universities last fall needed remediation, and the 34.5 percent rate was the lowest since the state began keeping records nearly 20 years ago, the state Department of Higher Education reported Tuesday.

Overall, 49.3 percent of first-year students at state institutions of higher education needed remediation, the second-lowest rate since record-keeping began in the fall of 1993, when the rate was 48.5 percent, the agency said. The number included a 75.5 percent rate at two-year colleges, which officials attributed to older students who have been out of high school much longer.

Interim Department of Higher Education Director Shane Broadway said studies over the past 18 months have affirmed that student remediation is a contributing factor to low college graduation rates, and a decrease in the remediation rate is an indicator of how initiatives at the K-12 level and more adequate funding is helping to prepare students for the rigors of post-secondary education.

“We’re seeing increases in enrollment and students who are better prepared academically,” Broadway said in a news release.

Tom Kimbrell, director of the state Department of Education, said more students are ready for college and careers after high school in part because of a good working relationship between the K-12 education and higher education communities in Arkansas. “We appreciate that the Higher Education Department and the colleges and universities of this state continue to work hard to support public schools throughout Arkansas,” Kimbrell said.

The Higher Education Department’s data show that 37.8 percent of students attending four-year schools in the state earn a degree. The figure was 19.8 percent of students at two-year colleges. Higher Education spokeswoman Brandi Hinkle noted many students who enroll at community colleges transfer to four-year schools without receiving an associate’s degree.

ADHE said 25.8 percent of Arkansans ages 25 and older have an associate’s degree or higher, according the 2010 American Community Study, which surveyed an estimated population of 1.92 million in that age group in the state. Nearly 23 percent have some college but no degree, according to the study.

“Several initiatives to further improve preparedness are being planned and implemented, and we hope to see a surge in college degrees awarded in the next few years,” Broadway said. “This will go a long way toward helping Arkansas double the number of degree holders by 2025 and ensure our work force is ready to compete for jobs in the new global economy.”