Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) on Tuesday (Sept. 1) called on the state’s higher education leaders to help create a new funding formula for colleges and universities and said a portion of the state’s lottery scholarship should be targeted to adults, to minorities, and to those seeking a technical certificate.
Speaking to the Department of Higher Education’s Presidents Council, Hutchinson said that the funding formula for post-secondary education is outdated and should be based on a base amount plus performance, incentive and innovation funding. He said Dr. Brett Powell, Arkansas Department of Higher Education director, will work with leaders of the state’s higher education institutions to recommend a new and updated formula.
Hutchinson and ADHE have created a plan: “Closing the Gap 2020: A Master Plan for Arkansas Higher Education,” that was announced Tuesday. It calls for closing the educational attainment gap; improving students’ college readiness; reducing the 41% of Arkansas students who need remediation; concentrating the state’s efforts on adults and underserved populations; making college more affordable by reducing the time it takes to earn a degree and making institutions more efficient; and directing state resources toward those goals.
He said the state did not cut higher education funding in the last session.
“I want you to know that I will continue to have your back when it comes to the state’s portion” of funding, he said.
The plan calls for allocating 25% of state scholarship funds to need-based programs. In his speech, Hutchinson said lottery scholarship funding should be aligned so a portion is targeted to adults, minorities and those seeking a technical degree. He said the extra money should come from future increases in lottery receipts.
Hutchinson said funds should be targeted toward attainment. He told those in attendance that only 43% of Arkansans have a post-high school degree or technical certificate, with 13% having a bachelor’s degree and another 7% also having a master’s degree. That means that “236,000 adult Arkansans will lack the proper education credentials to be employed,” he said.
Hutchinson said he wants to raise the percentage of Arkansans with a post-high school degree from 43% to 53%. The plan calls for increasing the enrollment of adult students ages 25 to 54 by 75% by 2018 and raising the overall college-going rate for underserved student groups by 10%. He said average salaries for individuals with a bachelor’s degree is $36,000, while it’s only $13,000 for those with a diploma.