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story.lead_photo.caption FILE - The campus of the University of Central Arkansas in Conway is shown Oct. 27, 2008. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)

CONWAY -- Fees will be increased, but tuition will remain the same for the 2020-21 academic year at the University of Central Arkansas, the university's board of trustees approved unanimously Thursday.

There was very little discussion throughout the meeting, which was held through the Zoom videoconferencing platform because of the coronavirus pandemic. Board members could been seen seated 6 feet apart in the meeting room. Others who spoke on agenda items participated from their homes or offices through video.

Physical presence in the board room was limited to trustees and a few personnel.

Under the approved recommendation by UCA President Houston Davis, the current tuition rate will remain the same at $227 per credit hour for undergraduates and $278.80 per credit hour for graduate students.

[CORONAVIRUS: Click here for our complete coverage » arkansasonline.com/coronavirus]

The fee increase is limited to those fees related to bond obligations. The mandatory fees include technology, facilities and fine/performing arts.

For undergraduates, the total of the fees will increase by 1.63%, or $150, per academic year, rising from the current $2,378.30 to $2,528.30. The graduate fee will increase by 1.39%, or $120, per academic year, going from the current $1,942.04 to $2,062.04.

"I appreciate the board of trustees' support of our recommendation to freeze tuition for the 2020-21 academic year," Davis said after the meeting. "Keeping tuition at last year's rates will certainly help ease some of the financial hardships our students and their families are facing due to covid-19."

The fee increase will generate about $1.9 million in additional revenue, which will be applied to the university's bond obligations.

Jamaal Lockings, president of the UCA Student Government Association, told the trustees that the association supported the fee increase.

Davis told the trustees that the fall semester will begin Aug. 20 regardless of instructional mode. The university is preparing for in-person classes, but with safety procedures to guard against spreading the virus.

While the pandemic has presented unprecedented challenges to colleges and universities around the state and nation, Davis said UCA has a lot of positive indicators.

Enrollment in the 2020 summer session, which was conducted 100% online, was about 3.3% higher than the 2019 session, rising from 25,873 to 26,742 students.

Undergraduate admissions for the fall semester are at an all-time high, Davis said, with 7,332 enrolled for the 2020 fall semester compared with 6,443 for the 2019 fall semester. Graduate student enrollment rose from 794 in fall of 2019 to 853 for the 2020 fall semester.

First-time freshmen enrollment grew from 380 in 2019 to 1,432 for the fall of 2020 semester. Davis credited the spike to the university's pre-registration efforts specifically targeted to recruit first-time freshmen students.

Also, early campus housing numbers show that 3,649 of the 3,717 beds are reserved, 98.2% of capacity.

Davis told the trustees that the university is planning for several scenarios for the fall semester, depending on the status of the covid-19 pandemic.

The alternatives include:

• Opening for the fall semester on the normal schedule with contingencies to transition to online learning if required.

• Maximizing face-to-face time before the traditional season and a move to remote learning after Nov. 15 with no return to campus until after Martin Luther King Jr.'s Birthday in January.

• Building a contingency plan to conduct the entire fall semester online.

The university's Pandemic Planning and Response Team is expected to have a draft by July 1 for an academic sustainability plan in light of the challenges presented by the pandemic.

Metro on 05/29/2020

Print Headline: Tuition won't rise at UCA; fees will

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