Gov. Asa Hutchinson called on higher education leaders Jan. 9 to freeze tuition at Arkansas’ four-year colleges and universities for the 2018-2019 academic year.
In remarks to the Joint Budget Committee in January,Hutchinson said the freeze is intended to “give our students a break” from rising tuition costs, according to a Talk Business and Politics article. For UCA to freeze tuition, the board of trustees would have to authorize not raising tuition for the 2018-19 academic year.
President Houston Davis said he doesn’t anticipate a battle over the freeze among board members, and said he supports measures to decrease the financial burden on students.
“The biggest concern is about the cost of education to students,” Davis said. “Any increase in tuition is a lot [to students].”
Davis said the timing of Hutchinson’s request allows the university time to make plans about where the budget will need to be tightened over the next academic year. He said announcements like these often come in May, a mere two months before the university must approve the annual budget in July.
Davis said the tuition freeze requested by Hutchinson doesn’t extend to student fees, but that the Student Government Association is reviewing student fees to determine if they are achieving their intended purposes. However, he said student fees won’t be used to make up for a tuition shortfall because they are dedicated to specific purposes — the university will have to find other ways to make the budget work.
“You play the cards you’re dealt,” Davis said.
Vice President of Finance Diane Newton said in an email that no decisions have been made about student fees, but acknowledged that the budgeting process will need to be well planned out.
“As we move into the budget preparation period, the campus hopefully understands that without additional tuition revenue, increases to the budgets will be targeted to meet very specific needs,” Newton said.
Newton also said that the university hopes to receive additional funding from the state based on the new merit-based funding model. UCA voluntarily froze tuition and mandatory fees for the 2015-16 academic year.
Over the next two academic years, UCA has seen a modest increase in the percent change of tuition. Before the freeze, tuition increased by less than 3 percent for every year since 2008, aside from a 4.5 percent increase in 2013-14.
Between 2014 and 2015, tuition increased by 3 percent. After the freeze, the increase in tuition jumped to
5.16 percent — this jump maybe expected after any tuitionfreeze. However, the percentage increase remained high for 2017-18 at 4.82 percent.
While UCA didn’t raise mandatory fees during the freeze, the athletic fee did see a 5.88 percent increase in 2016-17 in the first athletic fee hike since 2010-11.
Photo courtesy of the UCA website.