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News Article

Arkansas State University System plans for continued quality instruction and support with proposed budgets

05/24/2011

The Board of Trustees of the Arkansas State University System will consider tuition and fee proposals during a meeting scheduled for 1 p.m. Thursday at ASU-Beebe’s Student Center.  The proposals are included with the fiscal 2012 budgets that have been developed for the Board’s review and approval.

“At the direction of the Board of Trustees, our campuses have worked diligently to develop budget proposals that keep tuition and fee increases minimal while also maintaining high quality instructional and student support services on our campuses,” according to Dr. Charles L. Welch, president of the ASU System.

For several years, state appropriations have not kept pace with institutional growth, resulting in a steadily increasing portion of institutional budgets financed with tuition and fee revenue.  For instance, a historical analysis revealed that state appropriations accounted for 71 percent of ASU-Jonesboro’s operating revenue just 20 years ago, in 1991, but the state share has dropped to 48 percent during the current fiscal year.  Student tuition and fees make up most of the difference. 

Despite flat state funding for higher education, ASU System campuses have proposed modest tuition increases with additional annual costs ranging from $60 to $204 ($2 to $6.80 per credit hour) for a full-time student who takes 30 credit hours during the academic year.

Another result of flat state funding is that system faculty and staff will not receive cost of living salary adjustments this year.

“While our Board members and our campus officials are very sensitive to increasing the burden on our students and their families, it is becoming increasingly difficult to operate our institutions at the level our students deserve in the absence of additional state appropriations,” Welch continued.  “We all certainly understand the difficult job that Governor Beebe and the members of the General Assembly have had during the past few years as a result of the national economic downturn, and we are appreciative that our state policymakers have continued to balance our state budget while Arkansas’s economic performance continues to outpace the vast majority of the nation.”

ASU-Jonesboro

The proposed tuition increase at ASU-Jonesboro is four percent, a level that is expected to generate about $1.5 million in additional revenue, which is already committed for increases in fixed operational costs.  ASUJ’s anticipated state appropriation for the upcoming fiscal year is $700,000 less than the institution actually received in
fiscal 2009, and ASUJ receives the lowest percentage (66%) of state need funding of any of the public universities in the state.   The modest tuition increase proposed, combined with no additional new state revenue, does not allow ASUJ to focus on other critical institutional needs such as employee salaries and critical maintenance.

ASUJ faculty salaries, on average, are 13.4 percent below the Southern Regional Education Board average.  The SREB numbers, based on data from the public institutions in 16 Southern states, provide benchmark information that is often considered in recruiting and retaining well-qualified faculty in a national market.  To bring all faculty salaries up to SREB averages, the cost would be an additional $4.43 million each year.  Many non-teaching staff are paid well below their counterparts at comparable institutions, also.

The latest facilities audit showed more than $184 million in deferred maintenance needs at Jonesboro, but ASU is not in line this year to receive any earmarked deferred maintenance funding from the state. 

Two-Year Colleges

The two-year colleges in the ASU System, which also are facing the prospect of receiving no additional state funds this fiscal year, often find themselves in a position of competing with nearby public schools for qualified faculty because the public school salaries are often significantly higher than the college pay scales.  With no raises this year, the gap will in many cases become wider.

Together, the two-year colleges in the ASU System will sustain a reduction of more than $212,000 in Workforce 2000 funding during the upcoming fiscal year.  The impact is particularly clear at ASU-Newport, where the loss will offset about half of the new revenue anticipated from the proposed tuition increase.

ASU-Beebe’s FTE (full-time equivalent) enrollment has increased almost 27 percent over the last five years, while state funding has remained flat.  The campus will receive only $32,000 more in 2011-12 than it received in fiscal 2009, despite the major growth.

At ASU-Mountain Home, state appropriations for 2011-12 will meet only 43 percent of the budget, significantly less than the 56 percent share the campus received in fiscal 2008.  During this same period, ASUMH was growing fast, with enrollment increasing by 50 percent and the number of graduates increasing by 26 percent.

Looking to the Future

While all System institutions are anticipating increases in utility costs, property insurance, technology, critical maintenance and other required operating costs, Dr. Welch says they will keep progressing as much as possible.

“We remain hopeful that as the national economy improves, Governor Beebe and the General Assembly will have funds available to increase state funding to our colleges and universities.  We also look forward to continuing to enroll and graduate more students than ever before,” he added.

# # #

Arkansas State University System Proposed Fall 2011 tuition Rates
Arkansas Resident Undergraduate
(per credit hour)

                 Fall 2010 tuition                 Proposed Fall                 Annual Change
                                                                      2011 Tuition                  (30 credit hours)
ASUJ          $170.00                             $176.80                        $204.00
ASUB          $ 81.00                             $  83.00                        $  60.00
ASUMH       $ 80.00                              $  84.00                        $120.00
ASUN          $ 78.00                              $ 83.00                         $150.00

*          Chart reflects tuition rates only.  No additional increases to mandatory fees are being proposed by any ASU System campus.

**        Excludes any fee increases previously approved