UA Little Rock Braces For Financial Strain Of Enrollment Drop, Cuts Likely

Sep 21, 2018

University of Arkansas at Little Rock administrators are warning of cuts to make up for a roughly $9 million budget shortfall for the current school year.

At a campus meeting at the school's Donaghey Student Center Friday, UA Little Rock Chancellor Andrew Rogerson addressed faculty and staff on preparations for the budget deficit stemming from a drop in enrollment.

The school has seen a drop in enrollment from about 11,000 students in fall 2016 to roughly 9,000 students today. Rogerson said the university has been particularly hard-hit this year.

"We're down 370 students this year. 170, approximately, are first-year freshmen, and 200… didn't come back," Rogerson said. "Something’s not right."

Rogerson urged that no proposed plans have been finalized, but said that a reduction in adjunct and visiting professors is almost guaranteed. Positions that are currently open on campus will also likely go unfilled for the time being.

In addition, Rogerson said the school has had to deal with a new way of rating its financial stability. Rogerson said the depreciation of campus assets is now factored in when assessing a school's risk when borrowing money.

Rogerson said he doesn't expect any layoffs for tenured professors, though he said reducing some full-time faculty to part-time is a possibility. Dr. Linda Stauffer, who has taught American Sign Language at UA Little Rock for over 30 years, said students and faculty should not be expected to bear the brunt of cost-cutting measures. 

UA Little Rock American Sign Language Professor Linda Stauffer poses questions to Chancellor Andrew Rogerson regarding possible staffing cuts at the university.
Credit Daniel Breen / ARKANSAS PUBLIC MEDIA

"In everything you mentioned, which affects not only the students, I did not hear any reduction in administrators. And I think administration should take the hit the same," Stauffer said.

Rogerson said the university sent a survey to roughly 800 students who left UA Little Rock before completing their degrees in an effort to understand the enrollment slump. Of the 203 responses, students cited tuition cost, teaching, advising, class times and eStem High School as five factors affecting their decision not to return. 

In a survey of 280 current students living on campus, 70 percent of the students surveyed, according to Rogerson, cited the presence of eStem High School on campus as a drawback.

"We have some issues on this campus, and I believe one of them is we have to find a way to coexist with a growing eStem," Rogerson said of the school, which opened in fall 2017.

Rogerson floated the idea of requiring student athletes to live in on-campus dormitories, which he said have about 400 open beds for the semester.

"This is a structural deficit, and it has to be dealt with in a way that makes it permanent. And that's going to be a challenge… and if we don't deal with it, and give a credible plan by November, the trustees will give us a plan all by themselves. It will be like UAMS.”

The school has already implemented a freeze on hiring certain employees, and placed restrictions on non-essential travel. UA Little Rock must produce a financial strategy to cut down the $9 million shortfall by November, or the University of Arkansas System Board of Trustees will do so instead.

Correction: This story makes mention of two separate surveys, one of which was taken of about 280 current students living on campus. A previous version of this story misstated a part of the results of the results of the surveys. 

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