University of Central Arkansas Trustees voted Friday to increase room and board rates for students as the school covers a food services vendor fee hike and ongoing housing facilities maintenance and improvements.
The room rate at UCA will increase 4.5 percent, taking the current $3,120 year rate to $3,260.
Chief Financial Officer Diane Newton told trustees the increase would provide an additional $416,000 for fiscal year 2015.
In comparison, Newton said, UCA still ranks competitively among other schools in the state.
Newton said the current room rate at University of Arkansas at Little Rock is $3,596; University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff sits at $3,400; and the highest is at University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, $4,698.
The lowest in Newton’s examples was at Arkansas Tech University in Russellville, where the room rate is $2,852.
Newton said larger fees at other institutions may be due to the construction of additional housing, or where housing has just been offered within the last decade.
Board rate increase
The board approved a 4.51 percent increase to student meal rates, taking the current $2,410 to $2,518. In comparison, Newton said ATU’s rate is $2,372; UALR’s rate is $3,220; and UAF’s is $3,498
Together, the room and board rate at UCA for semester 2014-15 will be $2,889 for the typical student, an overall increase of 4.48 percent that will equate to an additional $124 per student, per semester.
Yearly, the increase equates to $5,778, with an additional $248 annually for the student.
The Student Life Committee of the Student Government Association opposed the 4.48 percent overall increase and provided a resolution which stated the student body would have supported a room and board increase no greater than 3 percent.
Newton said an increase in revenue is essential as the university gains $8 million in debt in one year, and looked ahead to future costly projects like the Greek Village and "the Donaghey project."
Newton said upgrades need to be made to Bear Village and Stadium Park, as well as to the sprinkler systems in three buildings, and a roof needs to be replaced on a residence hall.
"We’re going to have to do this more than one year," she said, adding that an increase similar in size would need to be proposed next year, "and the year after that."
Along with the first steps of an overhaul of the Lewis Science Center, trustees approved a student facility fee increase of $3.50, taking the facility fee from $9 to $12.50 per credit hour, a 1.38 percent increase, an additional $52 per semester.
The increase would generate $969,000 annually, Newton said.
The proposed addition to Lewis, which Newton said would include the "high use" science labs," will cost about $17.5 million, including construction, architecture and engineering fees, utility work, infrastructure and fixtures, and a contingency.
Newton said $13.5 million of the cost would be bonded, and the debt service will be repaid from educational and general funds based on the facility fee increase to students.
The university earmarked $4 million in general improvement funds from the state ahead of the project, Newton said.
Phase 1 of the LSC project was approved by trustees, and the new addition is projected to open 2017.
Increases to undergraduate admission standards
Trustees voted to up the standards for conditional and unconditional admission to the university Friday.
Unconditional admission requirements for incoming freshmen were a grade point average of at least 2.5 and an ACT score of 19.
The new requirements for incoming students in 2015 are a GPA of 2.75 and an ACT score of 20. The conditional admission GPA went from 2.25 to 2.30, and the ACT score bumped up to 17 from 16.
Trustees further voted, with the "full support" of the faculty senate, to again increase admission requirements for the year 2018.
In 2018, unconditional admission requires an ACT score of 21, and conditional admission will require an ACT score of 18.
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Steve Runge said these standards increases will potentially impact the size of the incoming freshman class.
Looking at the past freshman class, Runge told trustees, UCA would have lost about 75 students.
With 2018’s requirements, the class would have had 105 fewer students.
As a comparison, Runge said University of Arkansas at Fayetteville’s current undergraduate requirements are a 3.0 GPA and an ACT score of 20.
Dr. Charles Watson, president of the Faculty Senate, said faculty members support the standards increase as they would help with graduate and retention rates.
"We need to set the bar higher," he said.
(Staff writer Courtney Spradlin can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 505-1236, or on Twitter @Courtneyism. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)