ASU schools will not raise tuition and fees, mask requirements end

by George Jared ([email protected]) 444 views 

Tuition and fees will remain the same and masks will be gone on the Arkansas State University campus in Jonesboro in the coming school year. ASU and the five two-year institutions in the ASU System will not increase tuition and fees for students this fall while holding budgeted expenses below pre-pandemic levels.

System President Chuck Welch told the ASU System Board of Trustees on Thursday (June 3) at its regular meeting that “very conservative budgeting and financial management during extraordinary times served the system institutions well during the past year.” This fall will be the third time in four years that ASU System institutions – excluding new member Henderson State University – have not increased tuition rates.

“State revenues exceeded expectations and the federal stimulus funds have enabled us to recover lost pandemic revenues,” Welch said. “We were fortunate that we did not have to rely on reserve funds because we have healthy, financially stable institutions. Now we’re focusing on getting enrollment levels back to pre-pandemic levels as quickly as possible.”

Trustees approved a 2.3% tuition and fee increase for Henderson State as efforts continue to strengthen its financial condition.

“Henderson continues to make progress, but we have acknowledged repeatedly that it will take time to restore the campus to full financial stability,” Welch said.

Trustees voted to approve a $353 million total budget for the ASU System. The system budget excluding Henderson State’s budget of $284.4 million, which is 0.3% higher than FY 2021 but 3.2% lower than FY 2020.

Last year, the ASU System put capital projects on hold, scaled back deferred maintenance, limited professional development and travel, and implemented hiring freezes. Welch said those expenditures would be phased back in with stringent hiring practices in place.

For FY 2022, Arkansas State in Jonesboro budgeted $204.2 million, an increase of $700,000 or 0.3% compared with FY 2021 and a decrease of $5.3 million or 2.5% compared with FY 2020. For FY 2022, Henderson budgeted $68.5 million, an increase of $948,000 or 1.4% compared with FY 2021 and a decrease of about $200,000 or 0.3% compared with FY 2020.

The board approved a resolution to rescind effective immediately the requirement for face coverings to be worn on ASU System campuses. Trustees adopted the policy on Aug. 12, 2020, as a measure to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Act 1002 of 2021 requires all state and local requirements for mask coverings to end on June 28.

Trustees adopted a new telecommuting policy that authorizes campuses to develop policies and procedures for employees in certain positions. Chancellors are required to ensure that any telecommuting arrangement is mutually beneficial for the institution and employee, complies with all applicable laws and system policies, and is evaluated at least annually. The policy is for limited and strategic use.

A task force plan to revise academic admission standards for undergraduates at Arkansas State was approved. A-State will adopt test-optional admissions policies that offer differing opportunities for potential students to demonstrate merit for consideration. A key consideration was the impact of ACT test results as potential barrier to both traditional and nontraditional students residing in northeast Arkansas. A-State institutional data show a high school grade-point average to be the best predictor of graduation attainment.

A-State admissions standards minimums for fall 2022 will be a high school GPA of 3.0 or ACT score of 19 or a high school rank in the top 20 percent of the graduating class. Unconditional admission previously required a GPA 2.75 and ACT score of 21, and conditional admission required a GPA of 2.35 and ACT score of 19.