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Arkansas' second-largest university plans to raise tuition for all students in the next school year.

Arkansas State University at Jonesboro will ask its university system board of trustees today to increase tuition and fees by a combined 3.4%. Trustees will consider tuition and fee increases at the Jonesboro campus and its four community colleges.

The agenda, complete with tables of proposed changes, can be found at: www.asusystem.edu/events/?date=2019-06-06.

This spring, nearly every public university in the state has elected to raise both tuition and fees, along with nearly every community college.

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock is the only university not to raise tuition, and the University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville did not raise either tuition or fees.

Jeff Hankins, spokesman for the ASU System, said the system's policy is not to publicly comment on agenda items before the items are presented to trustees. Tom Moore, spokesman at the Jonesboro campus, said the university defers trustee-related matters to the system.

Information on the university's budget, included in the meeting's agenda packet, explains that the budget for the next school year must go up because of raises, cost-of-living adjustments and scholarship increases, among other things.

"Enhanced personnel support for academic colleges and institutional programs" and software to "enhance student recruitment efforts, cybersecurity, and fundraising efforts" also were cited as reasons.

At Jonesboro, the undergraduate in-state cost per credit hour would rise from $210 to $218, a 3.8% increase. The academic excellence fee would be the only fee to increase, rising from $8.25 per credit hour to $10 per credit hour. That would make total fees per credit hour $77, up from $75.25.

Students in the colleges of business, engineering and computer science, nursing and health professions, and sciences and mathematics would continue to pay the $23 per-credit-hour fee for nongeneral education courses.

That would make the total cost of tuition and fees at least $8,875 for an in-state undergraduate taking 30 credit hours over the fall and spring terms. For students in the specified colleges, the cost would be $9,565.

The university also wants to increase room and board rates. Room rates would rise by at least $25 per term for double-occupancy rooms and by at least $35 per term for apartment-style housing. That would not include the apartments at Pack Place and The Circle, available through a public-private partnership with Zimmer Development Co.

Unlimited access, seven-day meal plans would go up $140 per term, to $1,950 or $2,050, depending on the declining cash balance plan selected by the student.

The cost of attending an Arkansas public university during the 2019-20 school year will range from $7,339 per year (at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith) to $9,592.50 per year (at Arkansas Tech University) for in-state undergraduates taking 30 credit hours for most majors. Depending on a student's major, the cost can be even higher. Business students at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville will pay $12,587 next school year.

For students who are younger and required to live on campus, the cost will be greater. Most require freshmen to live on campus.

At the ASU System's community colleges, costs will go up because of employee pay, namely cost-of-living adjustments at all of the colleges, according to the agenda packet. Three of the four colleges have proposed raising tuition, and the other has proposed a mandatory-fee increase.

Arkansas State University at Beebe plans to increase tuition for in-state undergraduates from $100 per credit hour to $102 per credit hour. The increase also would cover the costs of faculty promotions and additional institutional technology support. The college will not raise fees but intends to raise its meal plan from $1,040 to $1,200.

Arkansas State University Mid-South plans to increase tuition for in-state undergraduates from $92 per credit hour to $95 per credit hour. That would cover merit bonuses of up to 2% and technology upgrades, among other things.

The college plans to decrease all but three fees that are not mandatory but rather are course-specific. The other three fees will increase.

Arkansas State University at Mountain Home plans to increase tuition for in-state undergraduates from $96 to $98. That would cover campus security upgrades, increased scholarships and maintenance.

Arkansas State University at Newport plans to create an infrastructure fee that would be mandatory. That fee would be $3 per credit hour.

The college's budget would increase for a new emergency medical services director, another student services staff member, a deferred maintenance revenue stream and upgrades to or replacements of equipment.

For years, the onus of sustaining and expanding colleges and universities has increasingly been on the students attending those schools.

Annual tuition increases long have been blamed on stagnant government funding that doesn't keep up with inflation and other needs. Such increases were standard in Arkansas for years before last year's tuition freeze that was requested by Gov. Asa Hutchinson. ASU colleges increased fees last year while keeping tuition flat.

Increased tuition and fees have helped create student-loan debt that now totals more than $1.5 trillion nationwide.

The cost of college is gaining more attention among Democratic presidential candidates, who have called for varying levels of free tuition programs and even the cancellation of most borrowers' current debt.

Metro on 06/06/2019

Print Headline: ASU seeking 3.4% increase in tuition, fees

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