Richard Taylor (with back to camera), project architect with Nelson Architectural Group, shows the Southeast Arkansas College Board of Trustees around the finished IT building, which is phase one of a two phase project, Wednesday afternoon on the SEARK campus. (Pine Bluff Commercial/Ralph Fitzgerald)
The Southeast Arkansas College Board of Trustees approved a recommendation from college president Stephen L. Hilterbran to raise tuition costs by two percent effective with the fall 2012 semester.
“We have been kind of in the middle of the pack on tuition costs when compared to other two year colleges in the state,” Hilterbran said during the board meeting Wednesday afternoon.
“We are currently at $2,830 for 15 credit hours. Other colleges have been increasing their tuition gradually and I believe we should go up a little bit in tuition as well. It is better to go up gradually than to have to go with a large increase all at once.”
Hilterbran said that the new mandatory tuition fee structure includes an increase of $2 per credit hour from the current $82 up to $84 per credit hour; and an increase in the service fee by $2 from $4 to $6.
Additional fee increases include upping the English, writing and math lab fees from $10 to $12 and an increase in the Compass Test fee from $6 to $10.
“Students can take the Compass Test once for free and will be charged for each additional time that they take the test,” Hilterbran said.
In other business, the board voted to table discussion on plans for the next phase of construction on campus until the May board meeting.
Richard Taylor, project architect with Nelson Architectural Group, led the board members on a walking tour of the recently completed information technology building prior to the meeting.
Board members discussed several options for the next phase of construction which include construction of what has been dubbed the “horseshoe,” which would include a new boulevard entrance and exit driveway at the front of the campus and a new parking lot adjacent to the new IT building; and the construction of phase two of the computing services and administration building project that would add 6,875 square feet of space to the phase one building’s 9,000 square feet.
“We talked about possibly just building the horseshoe during our retreat in the fall,” board chairman Paul Bennett said during the discussion. “Mr. [Richard] Taylor brought us information that construction materials are cheaper now and maybe we should do it all now. What are people’s thoughts on how we should proceed with this?”
Hilterbran said that the project costs for the IT building were being paid out of the operating budget as the expenses came up.
“We currently have $5 million in reserves,” Hilterbran said. “Our present budget is $12 million and we need to maintain a little over $2 million in reserve to stay within the 15 to 18 percent guidelines for reserve funds.”
Project cost estimates as provided by Nelson Architectural Group show a cost of $1,280,887 to construct the phase two building; $369,292 to construct the driveway and parking lot; and $1,650,179 to complete both projects.
Board vice chair Judi Norton made a motion to table further discussion until May with a provision that the SEARK staff provide information on projected cash flows over the next 12 to 18 months.
The motion passed unanimously.
The board approved several personnel recommendations from Hilterbran that included the hiring of Mary Tate as an English instructor effective Jan. 4; Scott L. Endres as coordinator and instructor of the EMT program effective Jan. 4; and Nicholas B. Simpson as a biology instructor effective Jan. 4; Quentin Douglas as an institutional services assistant effective Jan. 14; Brooke Mack as an administrative specialist II effective Jan. 25; and Steven Ballard as controller effective Feb. 20.
The board accepted the resignations of Stephanie Smith-Brown as controller effective Feb. 15; and James Bost as an industry training specialist effective Feb. 29.
The board approved the financial affairs report that included total unrestricted revenues as of Jan. 31 of $6,902,008 and total unrestricted expenditures of $5,637,691 out of a total 2011-2012 budget of $11,794,226.
Cash and cash equivalents as of Jan. 31 were $5,053,879 and total restricted funds as of Jan. 31 were $1,536,601.
New IT building
Michael Gunter, vice president for student affairs and institutional research, briefed the board on when the new IT building would be ready for use.
“We have a short term plan to move people in and a longer term project to restring fiber optic cable from around the campus to the new building,” Gunter said. “The final work on the building is scheduled for completion by the end of this week. We will then start moving in the tables and chairs.”
“We are going to have a single strand of fiber optic cable from each building to the central building,” Gunter said. “The work is planned for this summer when fewer people will be on campus. After this work is done, the servers will be moved to the new building. Because we will not have to do extensive trench digging work the cost for the project should be in the tens of thousand of dollars and not hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
Hilterbran said that the college is going to hold a Conversation Day on April 13 from 8 a.m. until noon to discuss the school’s mission statement and strategic plan.
“We are going to shut the college down during this time so that all of our students, faculty and staff as well as members of the community and our board members can meet to discuss revising our mission statement,” Hilterbran said.
Kaleybra Morehead, vice president for college affairs and advancement, briefed the board on enrollment statistics.
“As of day 11 of the spring 2012 semester the college had 1,995 students enrolled versus 1,984 students enrolled at the same time in 2011,” Morehead said. “Total credit hours for the semester are down slightly over last year.”