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Arkansas State University Board of Trustees Hears Update on Higher Education Legislative Issues


LITTLE ROCK — Dr. Charles L. Welch, president of the Arkansas State University System, told members of the Board of Trustees at its meeting today that they can expect to see flat state funding for higher education in the next biennium.

“I want to say thank you to Gov. [Asa] Hutchinson and the General Assembly,” Welch said. “His commitment to higher education during the campaign and continuing commitment to maintain stable funding for higher education are appreciated.”

Welch also said he and others in higher education understand the funding challenges of the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department and want to support highway maintenance and construction. However, he said, House Bill 1346 would be “catastrophic” for higher education in the long-term because it would reallocate state general revenues.

“We want to find ways to be helpful without adverse effects on the state budget,” Welch said.

Dr. Tim Hudson, chancellor of Arkansas State, said Dr. Barbara Ross-Lee, the vice president for health sciences and medical affairs for the New York Institute of Technology who oversees its College of Osteopathic Medicine, has moved into an office on the Jonesboro campus to serve as the founding dean and work with local constituencies.

“This is a great sign of confidence in our partnership that she’s been assigned to campus,” said Hudson, adding that NYIT will appear before the Council on Osteopathic College Accreditation on April 18 regarding its proposal for an additional site at A-State.

Dr. Eugene McKay, chancellor of ASU-Beebe, showed the board the college’s new logo and said the development process involved all of the campus sites and constituencies. He also noted that the 74 students enrolled in the John Deere mechanics program represents the largest class ever, and they are training in a 5,200-square-foot facility expansion.

Dr. Robin Myers, chancellor of ASU-Mountain Home, said U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia will speak on campus on April 16 in a rare community college appearance. He said the college’s funeral sciences program was recently enhanced with the addition of SynDaver Synthetic Human technology for embalming training.

Dr. Sandra Massey, chancellor of ASU-Newport, said the campus is experiencing record enrollment and recently was the first Arkansas community college selected for the national Sustainability Education & Economic Development “Mentor Connect” program. The program helps colleges build and expand programs that prepare students for careers in clean energy and sustainability-related fields.

In other business, the Board approved:

• The refinancing of bonds for the ASU-Beebe campus, which is estimated to result in $200,000 of annual debt service savings.
• Room and board rates for 2015-16 for Arkansas State and board rates for ASU-Beebe. The new rates will meet the additional costs of providing quality student housing and meals and to maintain or improve existing facilities.
• A resolution naming the pavilion on the ASU-Heber Springs campus in honor of Jerry Smith and his family for their contributions to the campus and higher education.
• ASU-Mountain Home’s request to implement an optional voluntary retirement incentive program.
• Personnel appointments, including Shane Broadway as system vice president for university relations; Brad Phelps as system general counsel; and Laura Shue as system associate general counsel. They succeed individuals who participated in a voluntary early retirement plan.

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