Board of Trustees Approves Budgets, A-State Chancellor Appointment
NEWPORT, Ark. — The Arkansas State University Board of Trustees today approved budgets, tuition rates and capital projects for 2017-2018, as well as the appointment of Dr. Kelly Damphousse as the next chancellor of the Jonesboro campus.
ASU System President Chuck Welch said a 3.4 percent rise in combined tuition and fees for the flagship Jonesboro campus this fall will be "in the middle of the pack" among university increases in Arkansas. A-State will continue to rank fifth in cost to attend this fall with an increase of $278 to $8,478 annually.
“We charged the campuses with keeping proposals as low as possible and as conservative as possible," Welch said.
"There is no new state funding and very little general improvement funding for capital projects or deferred maintenance. In the absence of new money and considering inflation happens, we have to look at tuition and fees."
Welch noted that ASU System students on average actually pay only 54 percent of tuition and fees rates because of federal grants, state scholarships and grants, institutional scholarships and discounts, and athletics scholarships. Freshmen on the A-State campus this year paid an average of just 29 percent of the cost of tuition and fees.
"Only 182 freshmen – 12 percent – in Jonesboro paid the full cost of tuition and fees this year," Welch said. "Most of our entering freshmen receive substantial financial assistance from scholarships and grants."
Tuition and fee increases at the system's two-year institutions will be 1.7 percent at ASU-Beebe and ASU-Mountain Home, 3.1 percent at ASU Mid-South and 3.6 percent at ASU-Newport.
Welch thanked the board for encouraging campuses to work toward competitive salaries for faculty and staff.
"There's a lot of anxiety among trustees to ensure we work to make education affordable at our institutions, but we also have a fiduciary responsible to protect the assets of the university," Trustee Niel Crowson of Jonesboro said. "Human capital is deployed to deliver that education to the students, which is our primary responsibility. We want to make sure we have quality faculty and staff to compete and deliver a quality education that will enable students to enter the workforce and be productive. We try to balance this among responsibilities we have. The proposal recognizes both sides of that, and I'm proud to be where we are in that regard."
Trustee Stacy Crawford of Jonesboro said, "It's always difficult with tuition increases. I was one of those students trying to pay for college with loans and work study. You get what you pay for. We don't take this decision lightly."
A-State’s $168.2 million budget for educational and general operations includes a 2 percent faculty and non-classified staff merit raise and a 2 percent classified staff cost of living raise. All classified staff in the system will receive a 2 percent COLA except for ASU-Beebe classified staff, which will receive 1 percent. Faculty at ASU-Beebe, ASU-Mountain Home and ASU-Newport will also receive raises. Non-classified staff at all system campuses except ASU Mid-South will receive various raises.
The overall ASU System operating budget for 2017-2018 is $281.2 million, which is a 2.6 percent increase over last year. The board approved $10 million in specific capital project plans for each campus. The Jonesboro campus’ $3.9 million capital budget includes completion of the Marion Berry-University Loop road extension and nearly $1 million for fire protection work at the Convocation Center. ASU-Beebe and ASU-Newport plan energy performance projects that will result in reduced operating costs.
The board officially approved the appointment of Damphousse as chancellor at A-State effective July 1 with a three-year contract.
"He's getting excited and has requested a lot of information," Welch said. "He's already hit the ground running, and we're looking forward to his arrival."
Welch and the board praised the service of departing interim chancellor Doug Whitlock and his wife, Joanne. "What Doug accomplished – we couldn't have written a blueprint any better," he added.
The board agreed to a 25-year ground lease and building lease with Centennial Bank for construction of a Campus Welcome Center on Aggie Road on the A-State campus. Centennial Bank will pay all construction costs and operate a bank branch in 300 square feet of the 3,833-square-foot facility.
Welch said it will make access to the campus easier for first-time visitors such as prospective students and their parents and give them "a strong first impression."
Crowson expressed gratitude to Centennial for its past and continuing generous support of Arkansas State, which includes sponsorship of Centennial Bank Stadium. He also noted that other local banks were given the opportunity to build the welcome center project.
In other business, the board:
• Reaffirmed the system Weapons Policy. The board plans to revise the policy when a new state law concerning guns on campus goes into effect Sept. 1.
• Approved a plan to grant three easements to City Water & Light Plant in Jonesboro to install sanitary sewer line and electrical infrastructure through a portion of property owned by Arkansas State.
• Approved implementation of Guaranteed Energy Cost Savings Capital Projects and related financing for ASU-Beebe and ASU-Newport.
• Authorized A-State to apply for federal grant funding from the federal Recreational Trails Program.
• Renamed A-State's University College as Undergraduate Studies and approved a new Associate of Science degree in accounting.
• Approved ASU-Newport to offer an optional voluntary retirement program.