SEARK trustees vote to raise tuition, fees

In a split vote Wednesday afternoon, the Southeast Arkansas College Board of Trustees enacted a tuition increase of $2 per credit hour for all students and a professional services fee hike to $5 per credit hour for those obtaining allied health or early childhood development instruction.

Trustee Al Lowery opposed the increases while Trustee Clifford Flowers abstained. Supporting the packaged raises were trustees Ken Baim, Rebecca Pittillo and Marc Oudin. Trustee Annette Kline was absent.

The hikes had been proposed in January by SEARK President Steven Hilterbran.

Tuition will now be $84 an hour for all courses. SEARK has 1,054 full-time students. Other than state funding, tuition and student fees are the institution’s primary income source.

Flowers earlier had voiced concerns that the proposed increases might produce hardships among some students. He pointed out that roughly 85 percent of current SEARK students receive financial assistance in their studies. Flowers suggested the two-year college should consider “other funding sources instead of putting a burden on students.”

Hilterbran said Wednesday that even with the new amounts, SEARK remains within “the middle of the pack” among similar institutions on average tuition and fees.

Oudin, who motioned for the increases’ approval, repeated an earlier opinion in which he termed the new amounts as reasonable.

In other business, trustees spent some time discussing the possible naming of the technology center and a new building that will house administrative offices, meeting rooms and a welcome center. It was finally decided that the administration would be asked to suggest a name for the technology center, although other ideas will be accepted and considered.

The new building was tentatively named The Administration Building and Welcome Center, but signage limitations could wind up forcing a title change.

Trustees received reports on a newly-enacted employee leave program, enhanced Compass Test score criteria aimed at improving low-achieving students’ potentials and SEARK’s revenue capabilities, and a surety and performance bonds plan that is due for renewal in July.

The board has scheduled a business retreat April 3 and 4 in Hot Springs and Little Rock.