Tuition Could Increase for Students Attending State Colleges in Arkansas

MARCH 11, 2004 -- Posted at: 5:40pm

JONESBORO, AR - If voters don't agree to a millage increase, students may be paying more for their higher education.

A three-mill property tax increase will be on the November ballot. The proceeds will go towards Arkansas' public school system, but it has to get passed first. If the millage increase fails, the plan for now is that some of the state's higher education funding would go towards public schools; forcing state universities to pass on much of the cost by raising tuition.

"You know, I think it's already high enough here," said Nick Byrd, a senior at Arkansas State University. "I don't know why we should be penalized for that. I mean there are other places it can be brought out of, the funds."

Ebony Jackson, an ASU junior added. "Well if it's not too much, maybe, but if it's gonna be, you know, extra, because we've already got too much for next year anyway."

A new law allows the state to take money out of prisons, public health programs and other agencies, including higher education, to support the improvements required in public schools. State estimates show $14 to $56 million dollars of higher education money may be moved out depending on the budget the state sets.

"We'll know more about that with the report of the special masters who bring their information back to the State Supreme Court," explained Dr. Les Wyatt, ASU's university president. "We'll know more about that when the state finalizes its' appropriation process for the coming second year of the biennium. That year starts in July."

Dr. Wyatt said the university has tried to keep tuition increases as low as possible for students. That has meant a 4%-6% increase each year. It has doubled in the last 10 years. Student fees have quadrupled during the same time period.

No matter what happens with public school funding tuition will likely go up at A-State again.

Wyatt added, "Every year costs are greater than in the previous year. Cost of operation. Cost of salaries. Cost of utilities. Cost of acquisition of materials; library materials; technology materials."

Dr. Wyatt pointed out that higher education is still one of the best investments someone can make in their future. Trustees members will work over the next few months to determine how much more that expense will cost students.

Some are worried the possible tuition increase may backfire, if it discourages middle and lower-income students from attending college. ASU Board of Trustees members will make a decision regarding tuition and finalize their latest budget on May 7th.