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Arkansas State trustees OK $342 million budget for upcoming fall semester with nearly 5% tuition hike

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A-State officials said tuition increase is the first in four years as inflation pressures increase systemwide costs and expenses

By The Arkansas Delta Informer Staff — The Arkansas State University (ASU) System, which includes serves more than 40,000 students in Arkansas and Queretaro, Mexico, on Thursday (June 2) approved a $341.5 million budget that includes a tuition hike for the upcoming fall semester as its flagship university in Jonesboro and other Arkansas campuses.

The tuition increase comes a month after the ASU System Board of Trustees on May 5 moved forward with a reorganization plan for Henderson State University in Arkadelphia that will provide over $5.3 million in savings over the next two years. ASU System President Chuck Welch commended leadership on the campuses for “their continued conservative approach to cost containment and the way we develop our budgets and expend our resources.”

“Our campuses (excluding Henderson State) have not raised tuition three out of the last four years,” Welch said. “We’re trying to be as affordable as possible. Henderson State is not recommending an increase despite their challenges. The Jonesboro campus remains seventh out of the 10 four-year public universities in tuition and fees. With inflation, it was particularly difficult to budget this year.”

For the upcoming 2023 fiscal year that begins July 1, Arkansas State in Jonesboro budgeted $208.3 million, an increase of 2% from last year, with a 4.6% increase in annualized tuition and fees. Henderson budgeted $51.5 million, which is a decrease of $17 million or 25% compared with a year ago, with no increase in tuition and fees. Tuition and fee rates will also grow 3.3% at ASU-Beebe, 4.1% at ASU-Mountain Home, 2.2% at ASU Mid-South, 3.4% at ASU-Newport, and 2.9% at ASU Three Rivers.

The fiscal year 2023 budget also includes a 2% merit salary increase for all non-classified and faculty; a 2% cost of living adjustment for classified employees; the transitioning of numerous positions from classified to non-classified status; the funding of promotion, rank, and tenure pay adjustments for faculty; and market adjustments for several campus units, notably the University Police Department, Information and Technology Services, and several skill trades within Facilities Management.

In recognition of the work done over the past year emerging from the pandemic, ASU Chancellor Damphousse also received approval to provide a one-time 1% merit-based bonus to qualifying A-State employees in Jonesboro before the end of the current fiscal year on June 30. That budget also incorporates a change in the ASU System’s flagship university’s overall tuition and mandatory fee structure, and includes the first tuition increase in three years, and only the second increase in the past five budget cycles. 

Board Chair Christy Clark of Little Rock said she appreciated the work of the campuses to make “every effort to be careful and conservative” in budgeting. Trustee Price Gardner of Little Rock noted the difficulty of keeping quality employees with minimal raises and that he hopes increased enrollment will lead to the ability to increase compensation.

Damphousse said A-State enrollment trends for fall are encouraging with year-over-year comparisons of freshman enrollment currently running 14.5% ahead at this time and a 58% rise in international enrollment. He expects some 1,000 students at A-State Campus Queretaro. A-State continues to have the state’s largest online program with 6,000 students and has doubled its online Master of Business Administration enrollment, he said.

The AUS System Board of Trustees also held a special virtual meeting on April 11 to discuss the recent Damphousse recent decision to step down from his post. On March 31, Damphousse announced his resignation as chancellor of A-State, effective June 30, after completing five years of service at the system’s flagship university in Jonesboro. Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas, earlier announced Damphousse has been named as the sole finalist to replace Dr. Denise Trauth as president on July 1, 2022. 

Meanwhile, Henderson Chancellor Chuck Ambrose said that since January the university had experienced $4 million in savings through various personnel actions. Efforts are underway to work with ASU Three Rivers and A-State to address both institutional challenges and academic solutions for students.

“Possibilities are being created daily for a different future,” Ambrose said.
 
The board approved the establishment of the Institute for Rural Initiatives at Arkansas State, which is designed to improve the lives of people in rural Arkansas by providing cultural, health, policy and scientific support from an academic perspective. The university will develop and lead outreach efforts and partnerships in rural communities.

At the June board meeting, Damphousse also announced the selection of a construction firm to build the phase two Judd Hill Farmer’s Market building and an architectural firm to design the Windgate Hall for Art and Innovation.  A-State also received bids for plans to renovate the current intramural, rugby, and softball complex.

In other business, the board approved:

 •  ASU-Beebe to offer a Technical Certificate in emergency medical technology and an Associate of Applied Science degree in industrial technology.

 • ASU-Mountain Home to offer a Certificate of Proficiency in production welding and a Technical Certificate in education.

 • A 2022-2027 strategic plan for ASU-Newport.

 • A Henderson State Campus Operating Procedure for health benefits, life insurance and benefits upon retirement.

 • New members of the Board of Visitors at ASU-Beebe, ASU-Mountain Home, ASU-Newport and ASU Mid-South.

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