Board discusses retention and graduation rates

Student retention and graduation rates became the focus of much of the discussion during the UCA Board of Trustees budget workshop on Friday, April 5.

The board met to discuss the budget for the next academic year, 2013-2014. They reviewed a variety of potential budget scenarios that included tuition increases and other budget modifications. During their discussion, the board also discussed current and potential graduation and retention rates for students.

“We are here to educate and graduate students, and we can’t do that if we can’t keep them here,” Victor Green, chair of the Board of Trustees said. “That’s one of our primary goals moving forward.”

Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Steve Runge reviewed future outlooks for increasing student numbers, as well as goals the university might set over the next decade.

“It’s important to me that we set some goals that are aggressive,” Brad Lacy, member of the Board of Trustees, said during the discussion.

Runge cited greater access to online learning, such as more programs that are offered fully online, as a means to increase student numbers. He also noted that several undergraduate programs are poised for growth over the next few years.

“Overall, this is the most important thing we can do for Arkansas,” Lacy said adding that increasing the numbers of Arkansas with undergraduate degrees directly relates to economic and health statistics.

Raising the rates of students staying and graduating from the university also helps build the school’s coffers. “It addresses a lot of funding issues that we have that would allow us to pay our employees more and do some other things,” Lacy said.

The board will adopt a budget for fiscal year 2013-2014 at their May meeting.

Prior to the start of the workshop, the Board of Trustees also took the following actions:

• Approved a resolution allowing the university to enter into an exclusive contract with Adidas. The contract would allow the university to purchase all athletic apparel, footwear, and uniforms from the company. The five-year contract begins on July 1, 2013. The board voted unanimously.

• Approved a resolution to move forward with a feasibility study to obtain a loan to pay the UCA Foundation, Inc., for skyboxes and weight training facility. The university can now seek approval from the Arkansas Higher Education Coordinating Board to obtain a loan of no more than $3 million to pay for the skyboxes and weight training facility. Currently, the UCA Foundation, Inc., holds the construction indebtedness, and the university pays the foundation. Six board members voted for approval. One member, Elizabeth Farris, abstained.