ASU Board of Trustees Approves Budgets, Confirms Policy on Guns
JONESBORO, Ark. — The Arkansas State University Board of Trustees approved operating budgets for the 2013-14 academic year and voted to maintain its policy of not allowing concealed guns on system campuses at its meeting today on the Jonesboro campus of ASU-Newport.
System President Charles L. Welch told members of the board that the campus administrators emphasized operating costs containment while trying to keep faculty and staff salaries competitive.
“We are keenly aware of the need to minimize the increased financial burden on students and their families," Welch said. "But we also must continue to provide an quality educational and campus experiences, and it takes financial resources to be effective.”
Tuition at the Jonesboro campus will increase by 3.3 percent. The academic excellence fee will rise by $2 per credit hour, and a new facilities fee will be $3 per credit hour. The average cost increase to students will be $165 per semester.
“Despite these increases, Arkansas State will still rank fourth for tuition and fees in the state,” Welch said. “We also have one of the two lowest-funded universities based on the state’s funding formula for higher education. We are providing quality and value for our students.”
Chairman Mike Gibson of Osceola said the board is “very appreciative” of the additional state funding allocated to two of the system’s campuses during the recent legislative session.
“But our Jonesboro campus is still only being funded at 63.6 percent of state recommended levels,” he added. “A testament to the efficiency of our operations is that our flagship campus is enjoying record graduation numbers despite being one of the lowest funded universities in Arkansas.”
Chancellor Tim Hudson said the Jonesboro campus budget would provide 3 percent raises for faculty and 2 percent raises for classified and non-classified personnel. It will also support needs in the areas of public safety, scholarships, and technology. Completion of the liberal arts building is a top priority in the budget, he added.
Proceeds from the facilities fee in the short-term will be used for critical maintenance work, facility upgrades and/or renovations. Long-term use will be to finance capital projects, but the projects that will be undertaken have not been determined. The fee is similar to facilities fees other campuses have put into place in absence of a dedicated capital revenue stream from the state, Welch said.
Other approved tuition increases included ASU-Beebe, 3.5 percent; ASU-Mountain Home, 1.2 percent; and ASU-Newport, 2.3 percent. Those campuses will provide salary increases to faculty and staff in efforts to remain competitive, while also funding needs in technology and other operations.
The board agreed to the recommendations of Welch and the four chancellors to update the system’s Weapons Policy and “opt out” of Act 226 of the Arkansas General Assembly. The act gives colleges the option of not allowing staff and faculty to carry a concealed handgun on campus.
“We have the significant responsibility of ensuring the safety of our students, faculty, staff, and visitors to our campuses,” Gibson said. “I’m confident every member of the board has carefully considered this issue, and our chancellors conferred with the appropriate campus constituencies before recommending to opt out of the new state law. The board will consider this issue on an annual basis moving forward, but I believe that opting out is in the best interests of our campuses at this time.”
In other business, the Board approved:
• Two new degree offerings at the Jonesboro campus: a Bachelor of Science in Biotechnology and a Bachelor of Science in Health Studies.
• A restructuring plan for Arkansas State’s College of Communications, which will become the College of Media and Communication. The two restructured departments in the college will be the Department of Media and the Department of Communication.
• The renaming of Banks Street, which is adjacent to and runs south of the Honors Living-Learning Community on the Jonesboro campus, to Honors Avenue.
• The naming of Red Wolves Sports Park on the Jonesboro campus for the area encompassing the track and field complex, the rugby pitch, and intramural fields.
• A new Technical Certificate in Funeral Directing at ASU-Mountain Home to give students the option of becoming a funeral director without the embalming portion of the funeral science curriculum.
• Changing the name of the Advanced Manufacturing program at ASU-Newport to Manufacturing Engineering Technology, which more closely aligns with industry terminology.
Following an executive session, the Board approved several academic and non-academic appointments, as well as the extension of contracts for the system president and chancellors.