The recent discussion that has buzzed around the subject of higher education in Arkansas is one that has been coming down the pike for years now.
Since Representative Mark Lowery started a discussion in the Arkansas Legislature regarding consolidation of UCA within the Arkansas higher education system, there has been skepticism regarding his motives.
There has also been serious thought into following the suit of many other states faced with slashed higher education budgets.
Lowrey is a former employee of the University of Central Arkansas and some believe that his motives in opening the discussion to the legislature are less than innocent in conception.
Lowrey, now the head of the Legislative Task Force to Study Realignment of Higher Education alongside Senator Jane English, has gotten the ball rolling.
While this might be concerning to some, there is a benefit to opening discussion.
Yes, the University of Central Arkansas has been around for over a century. It has operated both in good and bad times and has educated generation upon generation of students.
It is safe to say that the university has proven itself self-sufficient and resilient. There is no argument there.
This reality will most likely result in there being no real changes to the status quo.
Despite this, there is always a need for dialogue when it comes to education and the advancement of higher education.
As the state faces the probability of the higher education budget being cut further, there is a need to make sure that each university is able to serve its students to the best of its abilities, as well as for a price that doesn’t eliminate UCA from a student’s financial options.
Larger states such as California, when faced with budget cuts, did a lot of educational consolidation.
This allowed them to retain the number of schools they had while spreading the money out so as to best serve everyone.
While we might not be at the level of struggle that California and other states have seen over the past 20 years, there is a need to be forward-thinking.
We should at least entertain the idea of a merger, whether it be us joining the Arkansas State University system or University of Arkansas system, or whether it be us absorbing other smaller colleges that could use a hand financially.
UCA administrators seem wary of the idea of being absorbed, but I urge everyone entering this discussion to keep an open mind and look at the possibility of us turning into a flagship school like University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and Arkansas State University at Jonesboro.
Though the dialogue might just be getting underway, there is a benefit to entertaining all options.
Though Lowrey might have one idea of merging UCA into the ASU system, the outcome may go a number of ways.
Though we are entering a time of transition presidentially at UCA with Tom Courtway stepping down from the presidency, I think Provost Runge as well as our Board of Trustees and other committee heads will do a solid job of making UCA’s voice loud and clear in the discussion leading UCA to a bright future, no matter the outcome of this particular decision.
image via playbuzz.com