Arkansas public colleges and universities are weighing in on Gov. Asa Hutchinson's request for an in-state tuition freeze. The Republican governor included the request in his proposed budget for the 2019 fiscal year presented Tuesday to the Joint Budget Committee of the Arkansas Legislature. It comes ahead of coincides with Hutchinson's proposal for next month's fiscal session of the legislature to increase the budget for state Higher Education by $10 million.
The request comes in the form of a letter sent out to four-year state colleges.
"To further the higher education goal of student affordability, I am requesting all of our public universities to hold flat their tuition rates for in-state students for the coming academic year," Hutchinson writes. According to the letter, over the past 10 years tuition has increased as low as 3.03 percent and as high as 6.21 percent. Hutchinson is also encouraging two-year public colleges to keep their costs down to coincide with or below the Consumer Price Index (CPI).
Dr. Chuck Welch, president of the Arkansas State University System released a statement responded to the tuition freeze saying:
"We respect, understand and share the governor's concerns about keeping in-state tuition affordable. One of the top ASU System strategic planning goals is to use the CPI as the guide for tuition requests from our campuses. Our Board of Trustees and campus administrators believe strongly in producing a high-quality, affordable education, and we will certainly enter budget planning this spring with every intention of answering this challenge from Governor Hutchinson.
The ASU System has also been engaged in a comprehensive, system-wide efficiency study to help us identify ways to increase revenue, reduce expenses and reallocate resources. The primary purpose for this study is to reduce reliance on student tuition. Additionally, we continue to pursue new revenue streams through public-private partnerships and innovation activities.
In the absence of dedicated state funding for capital improvements, deferred maintenance, health insurance costs, and faculty and staff salaries, it's going to take continued creative thinking and changes in how we operate to meet short-term and long-term needs of our students. This is precisely why the ASU system has been proactive in the past few years in containing costs, seeking new revenue streams and promoting maximum efficiency in our operations."
University of Central Arkansas President, Houston Davis, also released a statement saying:
"We respect and understand the governor’s recommendation and the legislative budget process. Both tuition and state funds are key components of our budget, and we are consistently evaluating all funding resources available to our institution. We are always very mindful of the financial barriers that our students face. We will do what is necessary to ensure that our students continue to get the quality education that UCA offers."
The Director of Communication for the University of Arkansas System, Nate Hinkel, said in an email they are currently gauging what impact the tuition freeze would have on its schools.