JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - The Arkansas State University Board of Trustees approved a system-wide tuition increase and passed a new "deferred-maintenance" fee.
The increase equals a nearly two-percent tuition and fees increase at the Jonesboro campus.
In-state undergraduates currently pay $3,000 for 15 credit hours per semester. The approval now charges in-state undergraduates $3,060 for 15 credit hours per semester.
The board also approved a $3 per credit hour "deferred maintenance fee".
"When we asked our campuses for priorities, they talked to us about the things they wanted to do," Dr. Chuck Welch said. "Jonesboro said we really want to try to do some faculty and staff salary increases if possible."
However, one of the biggest priorities system-wide was addressing deferred maintenance on campus.
"We've got some very serious maintenance needs in higher education in state of Arkansas," Dr. Welch said. "The Department of Higher Education does a facilities audit report every two years. That just came out."
In the A-State system, deferred maintenance needs are nearly $482 million. Dr. Welch said critical maintenance needs are almost $29 million.
With growing maintenance needs and continued flat funding from the state, Dr. Welch said they looked into the $3 per credit hour deferred maintenance fee.
"Which would be used to really do some long-term planning so we don't get caught 5, 10, 15 years from now with an even greater crisis than we have right now," Dr. Welch said.
Dr. Welch said though fees aren't always looked upon approvingly, they are twofold.
"One is, it's a transparency issue. It lets everybody know exactly how those dollars are going to be spent," Dr. Welch said. "Secondly, it restricts those funds. So two or three years from now, our campuses can't say we'd rather spend it on this that or the other."
In a news release, the university stated that the maintenance fee will raise approximately $810,000 to meet A-State's "maintenance needs".
"The Arkansas Department of Higher Education calculates A-State's maintenance needs at $371.5 million with $27.7 million of the total deemed critical. The state provides no funds for deferred maintenance," the release stated.
Trustees also approved raises for some university employees.
"I commend Chancellor Tim Hudson and his leadership team for finding ways to be more efficient while increasing faculty salaries and addressing substantial deferred maintenance needs," Welch said. "With no increase in state operating funds and very little general improvement funding for capital needs, the budget process was quite challenging for all of our chancellors. Higher education continues to be an excellent investment for students and parents, but we're mindful that the financial burden is significant and we will make every effort to keep costs under control."
The board also approved a newly created fee for the First Year Experience Course, also known as the Making Connections Class. The fee will cost students $10 for the class.
Earlier this year, the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville approved a 3.5 percent tuition and fee increase, while the University of Arkansas-Monticello increased tuition and fees by 11.8 percent.
For a look at the agenda, including the tuition and fee adjustments, click here. The agenda also includes a list of 25 renovation projects planned for the Jonesboro campus.
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