UA holds that line | Arkansas Blog

Friday, June 5, 2009

UA holds that line

Posted By on Fri, Jun 5, 2009 at 12:36 PM

The University of Arkansas Board of Trustees today approved budgets for the 2010 fiscal year. These included a 3.8 percent spending increase, to $389 million, for the flagship campus at Fayetteville, an increase to be met by revenues from an enrollment increase. There will be no tuition increase at Fayetteville for the first time in 24 years. And apart from a $2 increase in a facility fee, there will be no increase in any mandatory student fees for undergraduates.

UA NEWS RELEASE ON TUITION

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The University of Arkansas System Board of Trustees has approved a tuition request from University of Arkansas Chancellor G. David Gearhart that will leave tuition unchanged for the next academic year – the first time in 24 years that the university has not implemented a tuition increase.


“In the current economic climate, we believed keeping tuition rates at current levels was the only rational thing to do in order to hold costs down for current and prospective students, in spite of the fiscal challenges we face as a university,” said Gearhart. “We could not have taken this step without strong financial support from Governor Mike Beebe and the state legislature, as well as our trustees.”


The university’s action today bucks a national trend of significant tuition increases in the face of unprecedented state funding cuts for higher education around the country. Some SEC schools already have raised 2009-10 tuition rates from 12 to 15 percent.


“We are fortunate to be able to hold costs steady for our students in light of the unprecedented funding cuts experienced by many of our peers nationally,” said Gearhart. “As a public land-grant university, we have a responsibility to keep a University of Arkansas education affordable for our citizens. Certainly, we will be operating on a very lean budget and will be making sacrifices that will be critical to address and support in the years ahead. We will not, however, sacrifice the high quality of education that our students receive and that our state has come to expect.”


Gearhart believes holding the line on tuition this year – a year in which students and families are faced with many unprecedented economic issues – is essential to addressing the priority of helping more students attend and graduate from college in Arkansas, a state that ranks 50th in the nation in the percentage of adults possessing a college degree.
“Increasing the number of four-year degree holders provides direct stimulus to the economy because the average person earning a baccalaureate degree earns approximately $1 million more in their lifetime than those who do not earn a degree,” said Gearhart in March, when the plan to keep tuition rates flat was first discussed.


Tuition for in-state undergraduates at the Fayetteville campus will remain at $167 per semester credit hour. Out-of state undergraduates will pay $462.91 per semester credit hour.


In addition to keeping tuition rates at current levels, the board approved the university’s recommendation to not increase required student fees, which fund a variety of student activities and specific programs and are typically voted on by students. The Associated Student Government has endorsed this action.


The board did approve a $2 increase to the mandatory facility fee instituted last year, which supports a long-term funding plan for the estimated $218 million in deferred critical maintenance of classroom and laboratory facilities on campus. Also, graduate students set to complete certain degree programs next May that require a thesis or dissertation will see a modest increase of $10 in graduation fees. All other mandatory fees will remain unchanged.


The board also formally approved a 5 percent increase in non-mandatory parking fees in order to fund construction of parking decks on campus. Only students who choose to park a vehicle on campus are subject to these fees. Such fees are the only source of income for many auxiliary campus services – such as parking, housing and campus dining services – that do not receive revenue from tuition or state appropriations.

NEWS RELEASE ON BUDGET

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The University of Arkansas System Board of Trustees approved the $389,633,073 budget for fiscal year 2010 presented by University of Arkansas Chancellor G. David Gearhart. The budget represents a 3.8 percent increase in spending over the previous year – but virtually all of that increase is for what are termed “unavoidable” costs, such as increases in utilities and insurance premiums.


The budget reflects anticipated expenditures from all unrestricted funds.


“The university will be operating within its leanest budget in years through at least next June,” Gearhart explained. “For example, faculty, administrators and other non-classified staff members will not receive pay raises this year. The state’s new pay plan for classified staff will only be partially implemented. Plans for most new programs and staffing needs have been shelved for at least a year.


“These are difficult decisions to make, but necessary if we wanted to remain fiscally responsible,” he added. “They also allowed us to hold the line on tuition during what is sure to be a challenging year when so many students and families who are struggling through these unprecedented economic times.”


Although the university received about $250,000 less in permanent state funding than last year – a year in which the university experienced a cut of $5 million in state appropriations – the governor and the state legislature were able to appropriate nearly $2.8 million in one-time federal stimulus money.


“We greatly appreciate the efforts of Governor Mike Beebe and the state legislature in making available these much-needed temporary funds,” said Gearhart. “However, it would be irresponsible to budget these funds for ongoing expenses such as salaries, especially since next year’s state revenues will depend on a very uncertain economy. For this reason we plan to hold this one-time appropriation in a reserve contingency fund to help deal with any unexpected or emergency expenses that will invariably arise during the fiscal year.”


The university generated $3.866 million more revenue than expected from increased enrollment in 2008 and 2009. That money will be used to fund the 3.8 percent budget increase for fiscal year 2010. This will cover such expenses as state-mandated pay increases for classified employees ($561,079); increased utility costs ($727,450); and restoration of funding for Chancellor’s Scholarships ($300,000).


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