A-State leaders told Henderson State University’s financial position continues to improve

by George Jared ([email protected]) 1,167 views 

Progress toward financial recovery continues at Henderson State University, Arkansas State University System President Chuck Welch told the Board of Trustees today during its regular meeting Friday (Dec. 9).

Welch said the recently completed audits for the ASU System showed no findings for Henderson State after a multiyear effort to address financial reporting issues. He praised Henderson State leadership and the financial teams at the ASU System and Arkansas State for their assistance in successfully completing the audit and “righting the ship.”

“When we took over Henderson, there were many unanswered questions about its overall financial well-being, budget, balance sheet and staffing levels,” Welch said. “As we’ve said many times there was never money missing – it was deficit spending and depletion of reserves. We still have to reverse revenue trends, but Chancellor [Chuck] Ambrose and this board have made very difficult decisions to bring expenses into line and position Henderson and its students for long-term success.”

Julie Bates, ASU System executive vice president, presented a comparative cash analysis report for Henderson and the rest of the system. The system’s Primary Reserve Ratio – which measures expenses against net assets – is at 0.387, which is within the board’s policy target range of .25 to .50 for reserve funds. As of June 30, the system institutions held 198.9 days of cash on hand, but Henderson State alone was at 50.6 days.

“Henderson reached a low of about $1.2 million or just 7.3 days of cash on hand at its most critical point in 2018-2019,” Bates said. “That was after a $6 million loan from the state was used to pay past due payables and operating expenses.”

Henderson’s annual operating expenses had risen by $8 million annually from 2015 to 2019 to $64 million, Bates said. Operating expenses were reduced by $10.3 million, or 16%, to $53.7 million during fiscal 2022.

Ambrose said “these were not easy times” for Henderson State as it transitioned through a financial exigency process that included reducing faculty positions and academic programs.

“The financial challenges were more severe and required more action than expected,” Ambrose said. “All the work accomplished during this past fiscal year has made a significant difference in where Henderson finds itself at this time versus where we were last year.”

A-State Chancellor Todd Shields updated the board on multiple enrollment initiatives, including expansion of recruiters in strategic regions, an internal customer service call center, an expanded counseling services center and a digital marketing campaign. He said discussion will be considered by the Faculty Senate and Shared Governance Committee to revise admission requirements adopted in 2019, which has led to rejection of students who were accepted to other major universities.

Board members were concerned about delaying changes in admissions standards. Trustee Jerry Morgan recommended an expedited review, and Trustee Price Gardner said he didn’t want A-State to miss the opportunity to accelerate changes and impact enrollment next fall. Shields said he would share their message with the campus groups.

Shane Broadway, vice president for university relations at the ASU System, announced the endowed Charles and Bertha Broadway Memorial Scholarship in honor of his parents. Made possible by memorial contributions and the family, it creates the first-ever ASU System scholarship. It will be awarded annually to a student attending the Saline County Career Technical Center-ASU Three Rivers in Benton, and the recipient will be able to use the scholarship at any of the seven institutions of the ASU System.

In other business, the Board approved:

• A resolution honoring the contributions of Philip Jackson, who is retiring as president of the ASU System Foundation Inc. after 37 years of service to the university.

• Nikki Chandler of Arkadelphia, Lena Hayes of Little Rock, Lloyd Jackson of Kansas City, Mo., William Wright of Arkadelphia and student Jordan Jones to serve as members of the Henderson State Board of Visitors.

• Arkansas State University to offer a Bachelor of Science degree in public health.

• ASU-Mountain Home to offer online programs in business administration, general business and information systems technology.

• ASU Mid-South to offer certificates in commercial truck driving and paramedic science.

• Naming of the “Alex P. Coulter Conference Room” in the Marion Berry Renewable Energy Center at ASU Mid-South in recognition of the longtime supporter and former board member.

• ASU Three Rivers to offer certificates in construction pre-apprenticeship and residential heating and air conditioning technology.

• An updated ASU System Employee Discount of Tuition and Select Fees Policy to include Henderson State participation in the plan.

• ASU Mid-South to proceed with a $1.5 million capital project to replace a chilled water system at the Reynolds Center and University Center.

• New Board of Trustees officers effective Jan. 1, 2023, including: Jerry Morgan of Jonesboro, chair; Steve Eddington of Benton, vice chair; and Bishop Robert Rudolph of Bryant, secretary.