UAPB facing cuts, possible layoffs after less-than-requested tuition increase


LITTLE ROCK — A lower than anticipated tuition-hike recommendation will force some budget cuts and possibly layoffs, the interim chancellor at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff said Wednesday.

“For the most part I’m going to try to do it without laying off, but at some point in time … we’re getting very close to the time we’re going to have to make some decisions about some programs and some people,” Calvin Johnson said.

A committee recommended reducing UAPB tuition-hike proposal from 4.9 percent to 4.3 percent. The 0.6 percentage-point difference amounts to about $36 a year for a full-time student.

The fiscal committee of the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees met during a telephone conference call Tuesday and recommended the change for the next fiscal year. The panel also recommended hikes that were lower than requested for three other four-year schools in the UA system.

The committee is to present its recommendations to the board during a meeting Thursday at UA-Phillips County Community College in Stuttgart.

The fiscal committee met with chancellors from UAPB, UA-Fort Smith, UA-Little Rock and UA-Monticello last week to discuss their proposed tuition increases. UA Board Chairman Jane Rogers requested that institutions seeking tuition increases exceeding 3.5 percent appear before the panel to discuss their proposals. UA-Fayetteville, which requested a 3.5 percent increase, did not have to appear.

“The committee chairman proposed levels and the committee approved that recommendation and the campuses are now tweaking those,” said UA spokesman Ben Beaumont.

UAPB, which has a current tuition rate of $5,518 for a full-time student taking 30 hours of credit a year, had requested a 4.9 percent tuition hike to $5,791. The fiscal committee voted to recommend a 4.3 percent increase to $5,755.

“It won’t be enough, but we’re happy they gave at least some consideration to our request,” Johnson said Wednesday.

“We’ll have to go back and make some additional cuts in our budget to comply with the amount,” he said. “We’ll have to make some adjustments in what we are proposing in the budget, meaning we will have to make some additional cuts.”

Last week when presenting his proposed tuition hike to the fiscal committee, Johnson said the university has made several budget reductions in the past year, including mandating a a 15-hour teaching load for all full-time faculty, which has nearly eliminated the need for adjuncts. Also, a number of online courses have been added, a freeze in travel has been implemented and administrators and faculty have been assigned additional duties. The resulting budget reductions have saved the university $753,000 a year, he said.

”We have a a few adjustments we made in salaries and positions and we’ll probably have to take another look at those,” Johnson said Wednesday, adding that he the university will “probably have to do without some of those positions that we feel are critical, but we can’t have them all so we’ll have to make some cuts in those areas.”

Asked what critical positions might be cut, Johnson said each department, or school, has a number of positions that need to be filled. Needs are presented as the budget is being developed, he said.

“We’re talking about cutting mostly in the personnel area,” he said, adding that vacant positions would go unfilled and some layoffs could occur.

On the bright side, Johnson said UAPB, which has seen enrollment drop and was 2,360 last spring, is projected to rise to 2,700 or more this fall.

The fiscal committee recommended that UA-Fort Smith’s proposed 10 percent increase be changed to 3.5 percent. A portion of the increase in fees to fund a new student wellness and recreational facility was rejected.

With the fiscal committee’s recommended tuition hike, a full time UA-Fort Smith student would see tuition increase from $5,436 a year to $5,627.

The fiscal committee recommended a 3.5 percent tuition hike for UALR, which had requested a 4.9 percent increase. UALR’s current tuition for a full time student is $7,344 and would rise to $7,601 with the 3.5 percent increase.

UA-Monticello, which requested a 5.4 tuition hike, was recommended for a 4.2 percent increase by the panel. With the new recommendation, UAM’s tuition for a full time student would rise from $5,560 to $5,794 a year.