Trustees on Thursday approved a 4.6% increase in tuition and fees at Arkansas State University and rate hikes at each of the five community colleges in the ASU System.
The tuition and mandatory fee costs at ASU -- the state's second-largest university -- will increase to $9,310 annually in 2022-2023 from $8,900 for an in-state student taking a 30-hour schedule over the academic year.
The seven-member board of trustees also approved a one-year contract extension and 2% pay raise for Chuck Welch, the system's president since 2011, and a one-year contract extension for Henderson State University Chancellor Chuck Ambrose, said Jeff Hankins, an ASU System spokesman.
Ambrose, hired last year, is leading the Arkadelphia campus during a time of "financial exigency." Last month trustees approved his cost-savings plan to phase out some 25 degree programs -- including English, mathematics and biology -- and eliminate 88 faculty jobs.
Ambrose's contract now runs through June 30, 2025, but his salary of $250,000 remains unchanged, Hankins said.
Welch is set to earn $409,500 annually starting July 1, a total that includes $20,000 in private funding, Hankins said in an email. Welch -- who in his initial contract earned $285,000 annually -- now has a contract running through June 30, 2027, according to board documents.
The ASU System has grown since Welch's arrival, adding in 2015 what's now known as ASU-Mid South and in 2020 what's known as ASU Three Rivers before growing to include Henderson State, which officially joined last year.
Trustees approved a $38.1 million educational and general operations budget for Henderson State, down from $50.7 million, with tuition and mandatory fees to stay flat.
Henderson State's budget wasn't discussed in detail at the trustees meeting Thursday, held on the campus of ASU Mid-South in West Memphis.
Welch said in the meeting that keeping tuition the same at Henderson State is "an effort to try to continue to focus on affordability."
A year ago, trustees approved an approximately 2.35% increase in tuition and mandatory fees for Henderson State. At the time, rates at other ASU System campuses stayed flat.
"We have had stimulus funding for the last couple of years that have helped with budgets," Welch said Thursday, referring to federal covid-19 relief funding.
This year, "inflation is at a significant level," he added.
ASU is merging nine mandatory fees into its tuition rate, and in a statement Chancellor Kelly Damphousse described the move as simplifying cost calculations.
"Combining most of our mandatory fees with tuition will improve clarity for our students and their families as they estimate the true cost of attending college," Damphousse said in his statement. "Parents and students have long sought simplification of their bills because it can be confusing when schools leave tuition flat while simultaneously increasing mandatory fees."
Damphousse, who is leaving ASU at the end of this month for a similar job at Texas State University, also in a statement described factors leading to the overall rise in tuition and fees.
"We did not take the decision to ask for an increase lightly, but the rising costs of utilities, software contracts, personnel, and other required costs like property and liability insurance have been negatively affecting our budget for the past three years," Damphousse said in his statement.
Welch on Thursday said that so far 44 have applied for the ASU chancellor position.
"The search committee has begun meeting and discussing those applications," Welch said, referring to a 23-member group composed mostly of faculty, staff, students and alumni.
Welch is chairman for the committee, and he said he's "very pleased" with the applicant pool.