University of Arkansas trustees approve new rates systemwide for 2023-24, new engineering program at UAPB

University of Arkansas students are shown on the lawn in front of Old Main on the campus in Fayetteville in this file photo.

MENA — The University of Arkansas board of trustees wrapped up two days of meetings Thursday, approving 2023-24 tuition and fee increases at its institutions as well as several new degrees — including the historic addition of an engineering degree at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.

The University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, held the line on tuition, with no increases, while the University of Arkansas-Grantham — the system’s online institution — won’t raise fees or tuition. The University of Arkansas at Little Rock and the University of Arkansas at Hope-Texarkana are keeping mandatory fees level, while UAPB is raising fees less than a percentage point.

Fees are increasing 4.6% at UA-Fayetteville, while tuition is increasing nearly 7.5% at UAPB. The University of Arkansas at Monticello is raising tuition 6% and fees nearly 4%. In addition to keeping fees steady, UALR is also holding down tuition increases, raising it less than 2%.

“My biggest disappointment is we had to increase our mandatory fees as much as we did,” said UA-Fayetteville Chancellor Charles Robinson. But he said he is proud to keep tuition stable for Arkansans, although tuition is increasing for out-of-state students. He added that it’s the higher tuition that out-of-state students pay that allows the university to keep tuition as low as it is for Arkansans.

The price per semester credit hour for the typical undergraduate Arkansan will remain the same as last year, $255.51, while the charge per semester credit hour will rise for non-resident undergraduates, from $847.32 to $889.68.

“We are an Arkansas-first institution, and without our out-of-state growth, we wouldn’t be able to hold the line on tuition for Arkansans,” Robinson said. “We have a brand that extends far beyond our state’s borders, and there’s no way [the low-tuition model for Arkansans] would be possible without” out-of-state students.

The UAPB engineering degree, which the university plans to offer starting this fall, will be the first Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, Inc.-accredited engineering program at a Historically Black College or University in the state, and only the 16th historically-Black institution in the nation, according to the university. It will provide companies within the state, region, and country with a “pool of qualified employees and potential partnership opportunities,” according to UAPB.

There’s a long list of local and regional companies interested in UAPB graduates with this degree, said trustee Ed Fryar. “[I’m] very interested in” UAPB offering this degree, he added.

The engineering degree, which will have two tracks — a construction project management track and an industrial manufacturing track — is “very much needed,” as there’s high demand, and it promises high wages, said UAPB Chancellor Laurence Alexander. Faculty and staff “have worked on this for a number of years to get it right.”

Much of the $2.8 million cost of offering the degree would be covered by funding from the U.S. Department of Education, Alexander said. The university plans to hire two new full-time faculty members, along with two or three part-time faculty, as the program grows.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects nearly 140,000 new jobs for engineers in this decade, and engineers had a median annual wage of $104,000 in 2021. That was more than double the median wage for other workers.

The university projects 30 students in its first year, adding 35 more in year two and 42 more in the third year. The university has the facilities for this degree, and many courses already exist.