UA Board to consider tuition, fees at Friday meeting

LITTLE ROCK – The Board of Trustees of the University of Arkansas will meet Thursday and Friday to consider a number of items including proposed 2012-13 tuition and fee schedules for UA System colleges and universities.

As the state implements plans to base a portion of higher education funding on performance measures such as retention and graduation, revenue generated from moderate tuition increases will be used to target improving these and other areas at UA System institutions.

“As we move into performance funding and focus our efforts on doubling the number of college-educated Arkansans by 2025, we must use our limited resources to improve retention and graduation on our campuses,” said Dr. Donald R. Bobbitt, president of the University of Arkansas System. “This is an important effort both for the vitality of our university system and for improving the economic well-being of our state.”

New revenue will also address critical areas such as rising utility costs, technology upgrades, facility maintenance, increased employee benefit costs and small increases in faculty salaries. Faculty across the UA System have received very little in additional pay over the past 3 years because of budget constraints.

“It’s imperative that we keep tuition increases low, and I believe our campuses have done that with these proposals,” Bobbitt said. “But we must address certain areas such as faculty pay to remain competitive and continue to provide a quality education to our students.”

Beginning in the 2014 fiscal year, 5 percent of the state funding formula for Arkansas colleges and universities will be based on performance while the remainder will be calculated based on student credit hours. The portion based on performance will increase 5 percent each year until it reaches 25 percent in 2018, in accordance with a new state law.

State funding accounts for less than half of the education and general revenue for several two- and four-year campuses in the UA System, while tuition and fees account for the rest. For example, state funds account for 40 percent of such revenue at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, and 43 percent at the University of Arkansas Community College at Morrilton.

UA System institutions with the lowest percentage of state funding are expecting small increases next year thanks to a proposal by Governor Mike Beebe that was approved by the General Assembly last month.

“We appreciate the efforts of Governor Beebe and the legislature to address our funding needs. These funds have helped keep these proposed increases modest,” Bobbitt said.

The percentage of higher education funding provided by the state has steadily decreased over the last decade as state budgets have tightened and enrollment has expanded on college and university campuses.

Four-year universities in the UA System received an average of $7,019 per student in state appropriations in 2008-09 compared to $6,269 in 2010-11, a decrease of 11 percent. The per-student funding at UA universities is expected to fall to around $6,100 per student once enrollment figures are finalized for 2011-12.

Two-year colleges in the UA System also saw an 11 percent decline to an average of $5,036 in state funding per student from 2008-09 to 2010-11. That number is expected to fall to roughly $4,650 for the current year.

All UA System institutions follow a similar on-campus budgeting process when determining needed increases in tuition and fees. Committees including students, faculty, staff and parents are included in this effort.

With proposed tuition and fee increases ranging from 3 to 5 percent, UA System campuses will remain competitive among their peers across the state and country. Colleges and universities in other states have seen large increases in recent years. For example, California State University recently approved a 9 percent tuition increase, and the University of North Carolina System recently approved tuition and fee increases averaging 8.8 percent.

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