A-State raises tuition and budget for the 2024-2025 school year

by George Jared ([email protected]) 54 views 

The Arkansas State University System board of trustees recently approved a $363.1 million budget, tuition and fee hikes, for 2024-2025 at its seven institutions, and formally hired a new system president.

Dr. Brendan Kelly, president of the University of West Georgia in Carrollton was hired to replace former System President Chuck Welch.. His start date has not been finalized.

Board Chair Christy Clark said it was “an exciting and transformative day” with the introduction of the next system president.

“I’m so excited about coming into this position because it’s such a great board,” Kelly said. “You make this a much more exciting opportunity.”

Kelly said he and his wife, Dr. Tressa Kelly, “work as a team” and that they have “been part of a lot of wonderful university communities. We’re coming from one we love and cherish – that’s a great university.”

“A university should have great mentors and great opportunities for students,” he said. “I have been surrounded by brilliant people whose only goal was to pour into students. I believe strongly that if we do what’s right for students, we’ll never go wrong. I believe the energy that exists in most communities emanates from the universities we represent.”

In discussing financial plans for 2024-2025, interim system president Robin Myers said the overall system budget – excluding Henderson – is 4.6% higher than last year’s budget. The increase is the result of higher expenses because of inflation and ongoing efforts to be competitive with salaries to retain and recruit employees.

“With less state funding for higher education and limited enrollment growth, we have to make the tough decisions to raise tuition on all our campuses this year,” Myers said. “At the same time, we continue to partner with donors and use other resources to provide as much financial aid and scholarships as possible to keep costs to students affordable. I’m proud of our chancellors and their teams for working hard to control expenses while taking care of our employees who are delivering high-quality higher education experiences to our students.”

During questions from trustees, Myers said ASU System campuses remain very competitive with tuition and fees statewide. They continue to focus on supporting existing employees rather than adding staff, he added.

For FY 2025, Arkansas State in Jonesboro budgeted $221.2 million, an increase of 4.9% compared with last year, with a 4.3% increase in annualized tuition and fees. Tuition and fee rates will rise 3.7% at ASU-Beebe, 4.5% at ASU-Mountain Home, 5.4% at ASU Mid-South, 6.2% at ASU-Newport and 6.1% at ASU Three Rivers.

Henderson implemented a modified cash budget model during the past four years and returns to a traditional budget consistent with other campuses. Its tuition and fees will rise 9% – the first increase in three years – to address rising expenses and offset lower enrollment trends.

Myers noted that Henderson faculty and staff took a 20% pay reduction and 40% retirement benefits cut in 2019 and have not had any restoration of those cuts – nor any raises – since that time. “It remains very frustrating that we can’t do more for our Henderson staff despite all their efforts these past five years,” he said.

Myers said that, unlike K-12 school districts, higher education receives no annual state funding increases for salaries, health insurance, capital projects, utilities or deferred maintenance. State funding to some system institutions was reduced as productivity formula results were negatively impacted by the COVID-19 years.

Henderson Chancellor Trey Berry highlighted new agreements Henderson has signed with the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Bowen School of Law for pre-law students and with New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine at Arkansas State for pre-medicine students. Freshmen at Henderson will have the opportunity to gain medical school acceptance at NYIT without taking MCAT testing if they maintain a certain grade-point average.

In other business, the board approved:

• Room and board rates at A-State, Henderson and ASU-Beebe for 2024-2025.
• Capital project plans totaling $60 million for system campuses for 2024-2025.
• Expansion and renovation of Gotaas Hall Health Science Building at ASU-Mountain Home, with funding from a $6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to help meet the increased demand for healthcare professionals in the region.
• Revised Board of Visitors Policy for the system to give chancellors more flexibility in appointments.
• Revised Student Accounts Receivable, Allowance for Doubtful Accounts, and Bad Debt Policy for the system to comply with a new U.S. Department of Education rule and provide that any holds on student transcripts will be discretionary as allowed by applicable laws and regulations.
• A-State’s proposal to reorganize and rename the Department of Emergency Management and Occupational Health, within the College of Nursing and Health Professions, to become the Department of Health Sciences and Risk Management.
• Conferring the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Public Service at A-State upon Nathan Larue, an alumnus who is managing partner and CEO at Kalmer Solutions in Jonesboro.
• ASU Three Rivers to offer an Associate of Applied Science degree and a Certificate of Proficiency in General Business.
• Henderson to grant a 25-foot electrical easement to Entergy Arkansas, LLC for the widening of U.S. Highway 67.