ASU Board Approves Campus Budgets for 2016-17
JONESBORO, Ark. — The Arkansas State University Board of Trustees today approved campus budgets for 2016-2017 with minimal increases in tuition and fees as part of a focused effort to keep higher education affordable.
ASU System President Chuck Welch said a 1.9 percent rise in tuition and fees for the flagship Jonesboro campus this fall will be the lowest of any public university in Arkansas this year. The annualized cost will increase $150 to $8,200.
“I commend Chancellor Tim Hudson and his leadership team for finding ways to be more efficient while increasing faculty salaries and addressing substantial deferred maintenance needs,” Welch said. “With no increase in state operating funds and very little general improvement funding for capital needs, the budget process was quite challenging for all of our chancellors. Higher education continues to be an excellent investment for students and parents, but we’re mindful that the financial burden is significant and we will make every effort to keep costs under control.”
The two-year institutions will also have tuition and fee increases that are among the lowest in the state. ASU-Beebe, ASU-Mountain Home and ASU-Newport rates will rise 1.8 percent, while ASU Mid-South will be slightly higher at 2.4 percent to compensate for the expiration of a U.S. Department of Labor grant and fund improved campus safety.
“These increases for our campuses are below or very near the Higher Education Price Index of 2.1 percent,” Welch said. “We will continue to look for creative ways to generate revenue for our institutions without being dependent on students, and I hope the state ultimately will increase its investment in higher education after six straight years of flat funding.”
Welch said the only fee increase at A-State is a new $3 per credit hour Deferred Maintenance Fee. Revenue from the fee, estimated at $810,000, will be used to create a deferred maintenance fund. The Arkansas Department of Higher Education calculates A-State’s maintenance needs at $371.5 million with $27.7 million of the total deemed critical. The state provides no funds for deferred maintenance.
Trustee Niel Crowson of Jonesboro praised A-State administrators for prioritizing faculty and staff compensation but asked the campus chancellors to assess personnel needs and look for efficiencies.
"As a businessman, I am accustomed to closely monitoring employee to customer ratios within my own company," Crowson said. "I am fully aware that this is more complex than a simple ratio, but I do believe it's appropriate for our campuses and this board to be able to clearly understand and justify the staffing structure that we have in place.
Crowson requested that a staffing study be conducted at each campus.
"It would be my hope that this study would highlight areas of over staffing and understaffing," he said. "I think it would be a healthy exercise to review every position to determine its timeliness, relevancy and necessity. This review could be coupled with program productivity assessments to determine those that are underperforming or no longer viable."
For the first time, the board approved specific capital project plans for each campus. The Jonesboro campus’ $17.9 million capital budget includes $15.2 million for an energy performance contract that will lead to lower operating costs and $1.5 million to complete the Marion Berry-University Loop road extension.
A-State’s $162.2 million budget for educational and general operations includes a 1.25 percent faculty merit raise and a 1 percent non-classified staff merit raise. ASU-Newport will implement a 2 percent cost-of-living increase for faculty and non-classified personnel.
The overall ASU System budget for 2016-2017 is $231.4 million for education and general operations and $42.6 million for auxiliary operations.