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ATU Takes Steps to Ensure Continued Fulfillment of Institutional Mission

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The Arkansas Tech University Board of Trustees has adopted a series of proactive restructuring initiatives designed to support the continued financial stability of the institution and the university’s ability to fulfill its mission moving forward.

Measures approved by trustees during their meeting on Thursday, March 18, include executive level and academic restructuring that will facilitate enhanced student access and success.

"I want to assure you that we will retain, nurture and grow our traditional undergraduate and graduate programs," said Dr. Robin E. Bowen, ATU president, during the meeting. "But, if we want to thrive, our operational model must evolve to one that better meets the needs of the student of tomorrow. In addition, we must be more responsive to the larger community….and we must demonstrate to our constituents that there is great return on investment at Arkansas Tech."

As a result of the board’s actions, the ATU Division of Enrollment Management will be merged under the ATU Division of Student Affairs. In a related move, the university’s operations in academic advising and career services will be merged and placed under one umbrella within the student affairs division. The changes will be effective July 1, 2021.

"The majority of services under the one stop student services will be in one location in Dr. Robert Charles Brown and Jill Lestage Brown Hall, with ease of access for students that results from the alignment of resources and services from multiple divisions," wrote Bowen in a memo to trustees. "One stop student services will provide budget and program efficiencies while meeting the needs of traditional students, nontraditional students, the unemployed and the underemployed."

In the realm of academic restructuring, ATU trustees approved the following plan:

*eliminate the ATU College of eTech as of June 30, 2021, and move its online learning support functions under the Division of Academic Affairs;
*additional restructuring of ATU’s colleges during fall 2021 with a goal of developing a STEM or STEAM college with a net minimum annual savings of $100,000;
*discontinue 10 academic programs due to low enrollment or low graduation rates, with those programs put before the board for consideration during its May 2021 meeting;
*and monitor 12 additional academic programs for improvement in enrollment, graduation rates or costs during the 2021-22 and 2022-23 academic years.

Trustees approved three measures intended to provide employees with additional flexibility while providing the university with greater efficiencies in personnel costs.

Those measures include continuation of policies allowing for voluntary employee furloughs and voluntary reduced time contracts.

In a new offer, the board approved a voluntary faculty transition incentive program that allows eligible faculty members age 60 or older with an option to accept a reduced role over a period of two years before entering retirement.

In related matters, the ATU Board of Trustees voted in support of:

*continuation of an internal promotion/transfer reassignment policy;

*for new employees only, setting ATU's contribution to Teachers Insurance and Annuity Associate (TIAA) retirement plans at 8 percent, setting new employees’ contribution to TIAA retirement plans at 4 percent and adding a two-year vesting period for new employees effective July 1, 2021;

*and adjusting the faculty and staff tuition waiver benefit such that undergraduate semester credit hours at ATU earned by employees may be taken with a 75 percent tuition waiver benefit, graduate semester credit hours at ATU earned by employees may be taken with a 50 percent tuition waiver benefit and employees pay all fees associated with their enrollment effective July 1, 2021.

The tuition waiver for dependents of ATU faculty and staff will remain unchanged at 50 percent. New employees and their dependents will have a one-year waiting period before becoming eligible to avail themselves of the tuition waiver benefit.

Additional details about restructuring actions taken by the board on Thursday will be shared with ATU faculty and staff in the near future.

Editor's note: for additional information from the March 18, 2021, ATU Board of Trustees meeting, visit www.arkansastechnews.com/atu-faculty-members-earn-promotions-tenure.