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Governor Advocates for Freezing In-State Tuition

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Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) requested Jan. 9 that four-year universities in Arkansas freeze tuition rates for in-state students for the 2018-19 academic year.

Undergraduate Arkansas residents at the UofA pay $302.07 per credit hour, according to the UA financial aid website. A student from out-of-state pays $810.26 per hour. Hutchinson’s request would stop an increase only for in-state tuition prices in the coming academic year.

Chancellor Joseph Steinmetz embraces the challenge extended by the governor, he said in a statement.

“We welcome and accept the governor's challenge of holding tuition for in-state students flat for the 2018-19 academic year and will continue to seek ways to improve our efficiency and contain costs,” Steinmetz said.

UA System chancellors and Board of Trustees members share the governor’s goal of controlling costs for students, said Nathan Hinkel, UA System communications director. They will work toward complying with the governor’s request to not increase in-state tuition rates, but it will not be official until it is proposed to and voted upon by the Board of Trustees in May.

Choosing not to increase tuition rates furthers the higher education goal of affordability for students, Hutchinson said in a letter.

“Controlling costs for students sends a strong message to students, tax payers and legislators that we are serious about making a college education obtainable for everyone,” Hutchinson said.

The University of Central Arkansas, also challenged by the governor to freeze in-state tuition, is mindful of financial barriers that students face, said UCA President Houston Davis in a statement.

“We respect and understand the governor’s recommendation,” Davis said. “We will do what is necessary to ensure that our students continue to get the quality education that UCA offers.”

Changes to out-of-state tuition cost is under the authority of the UA System Board of Trustees, said Maria Markham, director of Arkansas Department of Higher Education. Tuition and fee changes, including freezing in-state tuition, will be going before the board this spring.

Increasing out-of-state tuition cost is a possibility for freezing in-state tuition, said Steve Voorhies, manager of UA Media Relations, in an email. It will take time to work through the UA budget, but nothing has been decided yet.

Arkansas senior Sydney Ehmen thinks that freezing in-state tuition would help students pay for their education, she said.

“I feel like the in-state cost is a little high,” Ehmen said. “My sister’s in-state tuition at another university is a lot cheaper. I think it’d be great to not increase the tuition.”

Freshman Tye Shelton, from Texas, thinks the out-of-state tuition cost is expensive, he said.

“Lowering in-state tuition would help people, but out-of-state is still really expensive,” Shelton said. “I wish there was more of a middle ground between the prices.”

The New Arkansan Non-Resident Tuition Award Scholarship provides out-of-state students an opportunity for a lower tuition rate, according to the UA Academic Scholarship Office website. Depending on a student’s GPA and ACT or SAT score, they can receive 70, 80 or 90 percent off out-of-state tuition cost. For eligibility, the incoming student must have at least 3.30 cumulative GPA, a 24 on the ACT or an equivalent 1160 SAT score and be from Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee or Texas.

Markham presented budget recommendations to both the Department of Higher Education and all higher education institutions Jan. 11, she said.

“They were not prepared to extend (the challenge) to fees,” Markham said.

Making a commitment a year in advance is challenging, Markham said. It is difficult to suspend fees because they cover costs like utilities and inflation. The governor’s challenge of freezing cost increases applies only to in-state tuition, so it did not include stopping fee increases.

Along with a request to freeze in-state tuition prices, Hutchinson requested a $10 million increase for higher education institutions, he said. This proposal will be reviewed during the 2018 Fiscal Session by the Arkansas General Assembly Feb. 12, according to the Arkansas Legislature website.

The increase in money will support the HEI productivity-based model, which focuses on graduation rates and student success instead of enrollment numbers. The Arkansas Higher Education Coordinating Board approved this model Oct. 27, 2017, and it will go into effect in fiscal year 2019, which begins July 1, 2018, according to an article published in The Arkansas Traveler on Nov. 15, 2017.

UA System campus officials will continue working toward being less reliant on tuition costs, Hinkel said.

Tegan Shockley is a staff reporter for the Arkansas Traveler, where she has been a staff reporter since 2017.

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