White defends hike
Pay raises and other expenditures are likely to eat up the revenue generated by the 8 percent tuition increase, Chancellor John A. White said. And if the national and state economies don’t pick up, the UA budget could tighten up even more.
“I tend to be more of a realist,” White said. “And I think realistically there are going to be some challenges in our budget, even with an 8 percent increase.”
The tuition increase and state appropriations will generate more than $5 million for the 2004-05 academic year. But a lot of that new money is contingent on the economy, so the $5 million is not a guarantee.
White said the quality of education at the UA will not deteriorate even if the economy does.
“We’re not going to let the economy deter us when we go into the classroom,” White said.
MONEY ALREADY COMMITTED
Administrators have already decided what to do with most of the money that will be produced by the 8 percent tuition increase.
About $2 million will pay for commitments the UA has already made, including employee health benefits, increased utility costs and new funds for Academic Affairs. But most of the money – almost $3 million – will be spent on employee raises.
“The first priority to me would be to give salary increases,” White said.
White said he wanted to increase salaries across the board by at least 4 percent. To fund that size of pay raise would cause tuition to increase more than 12 percent, and that was not an option, the chancellor said.
“I started thinking at about 12 percent,” White said. “I finally could not bring myself to do the analysis at 12 percent.”
Even if the economy does well next year, the amount of money left over won’t be enough to cover all the university’s needs, White said.
“We’ll have $100,000 to address $12 million in unaddressed priorities,” White said.
Some of those unaddressed priorities include maintenance, recruitment, need for more classes and the Honors College. Most of the financial needs are good signs, though, White said.
“We have grown far faster than we ever had expected in the Honors College,” White said.
Even though tuition is increasing, White said he doesn’t think it will hinder the goal of increased enrollment to 22,500 students by the year 2010.
“People are not out just shopping based on price alone,” White said. “They’re looking at quality and value.”
About one fifth of tuition increases should be set aside for need-based scholarships, White said. But none of the new money from the 8 percent increase will be used to create that type of financial aid, White said, based on the comments from members of the Board of Trustees.
About 37 percent of UA students receive merit-based scholarship, and 27 percent receive need-based scholarships. White said he would like to up the amount of need-based money given to students.
“We need to have more resources for need-based scholarship,” White said.
Even though the number of need-based scholarships isn’t as high as White would like, there are other ways for students to get the money they need to attend the university. The Arkansas Academic Challenge, Pell grants, work study and low-interest student loans are all means to pay tuition bills. Arkansas families tend to pay a higher percentage of their income for post-secondary education tuition than families in other states, White said.
PAY RAISES FORESEEN
UA faculty and staff will likely see pay increases next year. Classified staff will get a raise in accordance will state requirements.
Classified staff are those who receive part of their salaries from the state of Arkansas. About half of the UA employees are considered classified staff, such as some Physical Plant workers and secretarial assistants.
State officials require a certain amount of pay increase each year. But the UA and other employers don’t always receive the money needed to increase salaries from the state. And the university doesn’t always have enough in the budget to fill in the gap.
Some classified staff raises have been put off in the past few years until the UA budget had enough of a surplus, White said. But the budget usually doesn’t have enough left over to keep up with state-required increases, White said.
“There’s no making it up,” White said.
“Our faculty and staff have gone way beyond what you would normally find at other universities with their dedication to the students,” White said.
UA faculty members are often recruited by other colleges and universities, White said. Whether they choose to leave sometimes depends on the buying power of the university.
“In some instances we were not able to generate the money to keep them here,” White said. “In some instances we did.”
One of the unaddressed budget items is a faculty retention pool. The pool would be used to encourage sought-after faculty to keep teaching in Fayetteville. White estimates the pool at about $656,000, but the money will likely not be there next year. Graduate teaching assistants could see an increase in their stipends next year. About $150,000 has been set aside to up their pay, but White said he wishes he could give them more.