The $169.5 million Arkansas Tech University operating budget for fiscal year 2020-21 approved by the ATU Board of Trustees on Thursday, June 18, includes no increase in tuition or mandatory fees for students on the Russellville and Ozark campuses.
"I genuinely appreciate the hard work that went into the development of this budget and the timeliness with which the board received this information," said Tom Kennedy of Little Rock, chairman of the ATU Board of Trustees. "I am also appreciative of the seriousness with which you take your responsibility of stewardship. This is something the board takes seriously, and I am grateful that the faculty, staff and administration does as well."
Reduced state funding and anticipated lower enrollment due to the effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic were cited by ATU President Dr. Robin E. Bowen as pressures that framed the construction of ATU’s 2020-21 budget.
"The circumstances of the pandemic and the accompanying economic downturn made for a challenging budgeting process this year," said Bowen. "It was a challenge that the faculty, staff and administration of ATU met head on and overcame by remaining committed to our principle of prioritizing our human core. The budget approved by the ATU Board of Trustees does not include any cuts in positions or salary for our current full-time faculty or our regularly contracted staff. Our budget includes no tuition increase, which took priority in light of the financial hardships facing many of our students and their families.
“To provide our faculty, staff and students with those assurances in this environment is a tremendous achievement,” continued Bowen. “I congratulate and appreciate the faculty, staff and administration of ATU for working collaboratively to identify and implement financially-sound strategies that will allow us to fulfill our mission of student access and student success during the upcoming year."
ATU in-state tuition rates for fall 2020 and spring 2021 will remain steady at $232 per student semester credit hour (SSCH) for undergraduate students on the Russellville campus, $292 per SSCH for graduate students and $129 per SSCH for students on the Ozark campus.
The decision to hold tuition flat for 2020-21 marks the second time in the last three years that ATU has operated with no increase in tuition.
“It is important to note that many of the steps we have taken to develop our fiscal year 2021 budget involve one-time money from our reserve funds and our foundation,” said Bowen. “Reserve funds built up over a period of many years are being invested to safeguard our human core in the short term, but relying upon reserve funds is not a sustainable budget solution as we look ahead to future years and the possibility of a prolonged economic downturn. As we assess our situation for 2021-22 and beyond, we must develop strategies rooted in even greater efficiency that will allow Arkansas Tech to identify and provide appropriate resources for its core activities.”
ATU will achieve cost savings by decreasing its maintenance and operational and departmental budgets for fiscal year 2020-21 as compared to fiscal year 2019-20. In addition, ATU auxiliary operations will experience comparable budget cuts in fiscal year 2020-21 in correspondence with projected decreases in enrollment and the accompanying fee revenues that support those areas.
"Finances are, and will remain for some time, the No. 1 challenge on the higher education landscape," said Bowen. "While certainly cognizant of that challenge, Arkansas Tech is well positioned as we carefully and thoughtfully approach the future.”
In other matters, the ATU Board of Trustees approved:
*offering existing ATU bachelor's degree programs in creative writing, English and political science online;
*implementation of an accelerated bachelor’s plus master’s degree program that will allow qualified ATU undergraduate students to seamlessly enter into an ATU graduate program and double count up to 12 credit hours from the master’s program toward the requirements of the bachelor’s degree, thus creating the opportunity to earn both credentials within a span of five years;
*changes to the ATU Faculty Senate constitution and the ATU faculty handbook that were previously approved by the faculty senate and by the faculty at large in a campus-wide vote;
*installation of a community mural depicting Lake Dardanelle and Mount Nebo created by Tiffany Black, ATU artist in residence, on the southwest side of McEver Hall;
*an auxiliary fund balance transfer of $400,000 to provide the ATU Health and Wellness Center with the resources necessary to help the university community combat the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic during the 2020-21 fiscal year;
*2020-21 proposed fees and fines associated with student affairs areas including residence life, testing center, public safety, campus life, international student services and health and wellness;
*2020-21 student housing room rates and occupancy proposal, including a rate increase of 3.2 percent as compared to 2019-20 rates;
*2020-21 meal rate plans, including a rate increase of 4 percent as compared to 2019-20 rates;
*a proposal to stop offering the Arkansas Public Employees Retirement System as a defined benefit plan option for new ATU hires effective July 1, 2020;
*certification of the ATU athletic operating budget for fiscal year 2020-21 as required by the Arkansas Division of Higher Education;
*a proposal to allow ATU employees to participate in a voluntary furlough program or voluntary reduced time contracts during the 2020-21 fiscal year;
*a transfer of remaining farm operations, technology, telecom and housing unexpended funds from the current operating budget as of June 30 to those operating areas' respective reserve accounts prior to the 2019-20 fiscal year-end closing;
*an expenditure of $106,000 to perform improvements to the sewage system serving Chambers Cafeteria;
*revisions to the ATU staff handbook related to credentialing and professional development and training;
*updates to the operating financial policies and procedures utilized by the ATU Division of Administration and Finance;
*parking regulations for the Russellville campus for the 2020-21 academic year;
*a transfer of $212,395 from ATU-Ozark Campus unappropriated educational and general funds to fund the respective infrastructure reserve accounts;
*establishment of five provisional career coach positions at Arkansas Tech Career Center, pending the receipt of anticipated funding;
*and continuation of an annual authorization to utilize unappropriated funds from the ATU-Ozark bookstore to assist with annual operating costs for food service operations at ATU-Ozark.
In personnel matters, two members of ATU's academic leadership were appointed to interim capacities within the ATU Division of Academic Affairs.
Dr. Jeff Aulgur, associate professor of professional studies, head of the ATU Department of Professional Studies and interim dean of the ATU College of eTech, will add the responsibilities of interim associate vice president for academic affairs during the 2020-21 academic year.
Dr. Jeanine Myers, associate professor of mathematics and head of the ATU Department of Mathematics, will serve as interim assistant vice president for student success during the 2020-21 academic year.
Trustees approved hiring the following new, full-time faculty members for the 2020-21 academic year:
*Afsana Ahamed, assistant professor of electrical engineering; Md Shahedur Chowdhury, assistant professor of finance; Dr. Susan Colvin, assistant professor of fisheries science; Dr. Theresa Cullen, professor of curriculum and instruction and head of the ATU Department of Curriculum and Instruction; Dr. Shad Dowlatshahi, professor of business data analytics and head of the ATU Department of Management and Marketing; Dustin Dunnick, assistant professor of health and physical education; Dr. Matthew Hankins, assistant professor of physics; Joshua Lynch, assistant professor of anthropology; Rohollah Moghadam, assistant professor of electrical engineering; Dr. Scott O'Neil, assistant professor of English; Jacob Siebach, assistant professor of geology; Dr. Heather Stefanski, assistant professor of curriculum and instruction; Dr. Dana Tribble, assistant professor of student affairs administration; Jonathan Welch, visiting assistant professor of art; and Allie Wynn, instructor of mathematics.
Dr. Shelly Daily, professor of nursing and member of the ATU faculty since 2000, was named head of the ATU Department of Nursing effective July 1, 2020.
Dr. Justin Killingsworth, associate professor of agricultural education, was approved to continue as interim head of the ATU Department of Agriculture.
The employment of the following new, full-time staff members was confirmed by the board:
*Carly Ashlock, digital media coordinator, effective June 1, 2020; Kaitlynn Beaird, graduate admissions officer, effective May 1, 2020; Jennifer Blasingame, SafeCare enrollment coordinator, effective April 28, 2020; Mark Downey, head men's basketball coach, effective May 1, 2020; Jordan Jenkins, SafeCare provider, effective May 4, 2020; Tamara Morris, training specialist and business consultant in the regional office of the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center at ATU, effective May 19, 2020; and Christina Stolarz, director of human resources, effective June 15, 2020.
Danielle Hodges, who became interim director of teacher education student services in the ATU College of Education in January 2020, was appointed to that position on a permanent basis effective July 1, 2020.
Kristen Smith, who has served as an admissions counselor in the ATU Division of Enrollment Management since 2018, is remaining in that division in her new role as assistant director for recruitment events effective June 1, 2020.
Ryan Trevathan, who joined the ATU football coaching staff as an assistant in January 2019, was approved for a promotion to offensive coordinator for the 2020 season.
Trustees accepted resignations from the following ATU employees:
*Bob Freeman, director of human resources, effective March 20, 2020; Jesse Ring, assistant professor of art, effective May 9, 2020; and Brooke Southard, director of payroll, effective Feb. 28, 2020.
The board approved a request from Dr. Rebecca Burris, professor of nursing and head of the ATU Department of Nursing, to adjust her retirement date. It was originally set for Aug. 31, 2020, and was revised to June 30, 2020.