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Bill to end HSU board advances in Senate

Union with ASU’s system draws near by Rachel Herzog | January 21, 2021 at 3:23 a.m.
FILE — Henderson State University is shown in this 2019 file photo.

Legislation to complete Henderson State University's merger into the Arkansas State University System was advanced by the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday.

Senate Bill 116 would eliminate the board of trustees at Henderson State University, consolidating the duties and responsibilities with the ASU System board of trustees.

Henderson State would become an ASU System campus, under the legislation. Its name will not change.

The Higher Learning Commission approved the union in November.

"This is the final step for the merger of Henderson State University into the ASU System," Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Missy Irvin, R-Mountain View, said.

[RELATED: See complete Democrat-Gazette coverage of the Arkansas Legislature at arkansasonline.com/legislature]

The legislation also would expand the ASU System's board by two seats, from five trustees to seven.

Irvin presented the bill on behalf of the bill's lead sponsor, Sen. Alan Clark, R-Lonsdale.

Henderson State in Arkadelphia has faced financial struggles in recent years, including thin margins, small reserves and outstanding debts.

Additionally, Arkansas Legislative Audit issued 15 findings of apparent regulatory violations at the university's financial-aid office between 2017 and 2019. Among them were failure to reconcile accounts and the improper awarding or use of federal financial aid.

Still, the accrediting commission approved the merger, noting that Henderson State has undertaken several remedial measures in response to the state audit. The board said in December that Henderson State must host a visit in the next six months to demonstrate those measures.

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