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Hope Star - Hope, AR
  • State tinkers with education funds

  • While potential cuts to higher education funding never occurred, and the Arkansas House of Representatives resolved a fight over federally funded Medicaid money this week, University of Arkansas Community College at Hope Chancellor Chris Thomason said Friday UACCH is not out of the woods, yet.
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  • While potential cuts to higher education funding never occurred, and the Arkansas House of Representatives resolved a fight over federally funded Medicaid money this week, University of Arkansas Community College at Hope Chancellor Chris Thomason said Friday UACCH is not out of the woods, yet.
    Thomason told the UACCH Board of Visitors on Friday that some $89 million in cuts to state programs, including higher education, that would have been forced had the House not passed the Medicaid “private option” health insurance funding mechanism were only one aspect of a complex situation for community college funding in the current legislative fiscal session.
    Workforce 2000 funds may well be capped,” he said.
    Workforce 2000 is the federally-backed program which is administered through the states that funds much of the technical-industrial training which UACCH and other community colleges in Arkansas provide.
    Savings from the passage of the private option were estimated to have a positive impact on the budget of about $89 million or $90 million,” Thomason said. “That $90 million, as you all know, that we were all praying they would pass, as we would have had to take a proportionate cut had the private option not passed.”
    He said the Revenue Stabilization Act, which contains the appropriation for higher education and funding authority for UACCH, was passed out of the Joint Budget Committee on Friday.
    I haven't had a chance to look at it; but I will tell you this, that while the good news is that we're not going to lose any money, the bad news is that it doesn't look like we're going to get any money,” Thomason said.
    He said a compromise jobs training measure, Arkansas Works Fast Track Program, appears to have been fashioned such that it will replace some Workforce 2000 funding.
    That does provide some opportunities; it's about $15 million to $16 million that is being put into AEDC for workforce training,” Thomason said. “That is going to provide community colleges the opportunity to go through the grant process to provide training for those workforce demand areas that are identified. They are working on targeting those vacancies, right now; there are approximately 38,000 current industry vacancies that need to be filled, and we can do that through providing that highly-skilled individual employee.”
    Page 2 of 2 - He said the change will require some groundwork for UACCH.
    It is a wonderful opportunity for us to do what we do best here at UACCH,” Thomason said.
    Also Friday, Dr. Jennifer Methvin, vice chancellor for academics, told the board that UACCH faculty have begun to embrace the future to combat a problem in the skyrocketing cost of student textbooks.
    Dr. Methvin said student textbook costs have risen some 812 percent since 1978, compared with the cost of medical services at 573 percent, new home prices at 325 percent and the Consumer Price Index at 250 percent.
    Methvin said UACCH academic divisions were challenged to choose one course in each division and cut learning material costs by 50 percent.
    She said the result was a rethinking of the use of textbooks on a campus wide scale that cut student costs by $663 per year through adoption of online resources and completely eliminating standard texts in some cases.
    Thomason called the initiative “extremely complex,” and commended the project.
    This is the first major conversation we have had on this issue,” he said. “We have approached this issue from every possible way. I want you to appreciate how big an impact this will have.”
    UACCH Vice Chancellor for Student Services Bobby James reported on the progress of the career coach initiative, noting that the program had been reduced from seven original participating school districts to four in Hope, Spring Hill, Blevins and Lafayette County.
    James said the goals set for the program are part of the basis for its funding.
    In every one of our schools, we have achieved those goals,” he said.
    James said the program has had the net effect of not only improving ACT scores among participating schools, but increasing the number of students who take the exam with the idea of applying for college admission.
    Our program that we operate at UACCH has been recognized as one of the most outstanding,” he said. “So, if the question ever arises: Is it worth it? The answer is: Yes, absolutely.”

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