By JEFF HANKINS | Arkansas State University System
BEEBE — The Arkansas State University System Board of Trustees today approved a $338.8 million budget, as well as tuition and fees, for 2023-2024 at its seven institutions.
At a regular meeting on the ASU-Beebe campus, System President Chuck Welch noted the overall system budget is 0.4 percent lower than last year and that system institution budgets remain below pre-Covid levels. Campuses kept increases below both the Consumer Price Index and Higher Education Index inflation levels, he added.
“One of the most challenging and difficult decisions that we ask trustees to make regards tuition and fees,” Welch said. “We have to think about the impact on students and families, but also everyone in the room because through Covid-19 we haven’t been able to reward faculty and staff.”
During questions from trustees, Welch said in most cases the tuition and fee revenue increases did not cover the increased cost of minimal raises for faculty and staff. Campuses reallocated funds and focused on taking care of existing employees rather than adding employees, he said, and tuition rates keep ASU System institutions “in the middle of the pack” when ranking Arkansas four-year and two-year colleges.
For FY2024, Arkansas State in Jonesboro budgeted $210.9 million, an increase of 1.7 percent compared with last year, with a 4 percent increase in annualized tuition and fees. Henderson budgeted $41.5 million, which is a decrease of $10 million or 19.4 percent compared with a year ago, with no increase in tuition and fees. Tuition and fee rates will rise 6.3 percent at ASU-Beebe, 4.8 percent at ASU-Mountain Home, 4.3 percent at ASU Mid-South, 5.7 percent at ASU-Newport and 6.4 percent at ASU Three Rivers.
Welch noted that, unlike K-12 school districts, higher education receives no annual state funding increases for salaries, health insurance, capital projects, utilities or deferred maintenance. But he expressed gratitude that higher education in Arkansas has not experienced funding reductions like other states have.
In other Henderson-related business, the board approved an additional $1.2 million phase of the Caddo Center renovation project funded by ANCRC to preserve the historic building and provide space for various student services.