ASU Board Hears Updates on Public-Private Partnerships, Expansion

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JONESBORO, Ark. — The Arkansas State University System Board of Trustees heard updates on three public-private partnership projects, the pending addition of College of the Ouachitas, and consulting work with Henderson State University during its regular meeting Friday.

ASU System President Chuck Welch noted that Arkansas State had embarked on three significant projects over the past six years – a privately funded campus in Mexico, a hotel and convention center, and a medical school – with key partners.

“These projects have been transformational for Arkansas State University and northeast Arkansas, and their impact will only continue to grow,” Welch said. “Just as these initiatives reach milestones this year, we continue to look for additional opportunities to be creative and diversify revenue without extensive cost to the institution or to the state.”

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Welch said the New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine — the first D.O. school in Arkansas and the second medical school — now has four full classes of medical students on the Jonesboro campus. About one-third of the 456 students are from Arkansas.

“I’m particularly pleased that 17 of this fall’s 115 first-year students are A-State graduates – more than any other feeder school,” he said. “The medical school feasibility study projected a $70 million economic impact on Jonesboro and the Delta region. NYIT’s partnership with Arkansas State has brought 534 individuals or families to Jonesboro over the last five years to live while studying or working.”

NYIT will have its first residency Match Day on March 20 and its inaugural graduation on May 21.  NYIT now has 78 faculty and staff in Jonesboro.

Welch said the trustees earlier toured the new $58 million Embassy Suites and Red Wolf Convention Center, which will open in November. “It’s first class in every way and is going to be a welcome addition to the campus and northeast Arkansas,” he added.

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The $100 million privately funded A-State Campus Queretaro in Mexico had a 53 percent increase in enrollment this fall – coupled with 90 percent retention of last year’s students – and now has 535 students. Welch acknowledged the project has been a learning curve and challenge for everyone, “but we remain very enthusiastic about the long-term benefits of this initiative for the university and opportunities for our students.”

Welch said transition plans for COTO are going smoothly and should be effective Jan. 1 pending approval of the Higher Learning Commission. COTO employees will become part of the ASU System’s health plan in 2020. COTO and the ASU System have been working closely with construction plans for the $43 million, 120,000-square-foot Saline County Career and Technical Education Center.

COTO President Steve Rook reported his institution’s Board of Trustees last week approved Arkansas State University Three Rivers as its new name. The Ouachita, Saline and Caddo rivers run through COTO’s five-county service area. A new logo designed by CJRW of Little Rock was presented.

ASU System officials are also working with Henderson State University in a consulting role through the rest of the calendar year, Welch said. The primary focus area has been in financial and legal issues, he said, and the HSU Board of Trustees has made no decision on whether to join a system.

Eric Atchison, the system’s new vice president for strategic research, gave trustees an overview of the first strategic research working group meeting that involves personnel from each campus. Atchison said he would be working with the group to design and implement a systemwide data system that will lead to data-informed processes, decisions and cost savings in areas from academics to information technology.

A-State Chancellor Kelly Damphousse said the university is continuing its strategic planning process. A series of town hall meetings with constituencies will be scheduled for this fall.

“The key word that keeps popping up is ‘invest,’” Damphousse said. “We want to make sure everyone associated with the university has what they need to be successful.”

Damphousse also noted that U.S. News and World Report has changed Arkansas State’s designation from “regional university” to “national university” in response to the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education’s elevation of the campus to an “R2” research institution. The publication’s new ranking for “social mobility,” based on Pell Grant eligible students who graduate, placed A-State first in Arkansas and 79th in the country, he said.

In other business, the board approved plans to refund certain revenue bonds for the Jonesboro and Mountain Home campuses that will result in $1.2 million in debt service cost savings.

The board also adopted 14 resolutions to name various facilities in the new, privately funded Centennial Bank Athletics Operations Center in honor of donors and supporters of the athletic program. They include:

• Main lobby in Centennial Bank Athletics Operations Center – A-State Lettermen’s Club Heritage Hall;

• Offensive line position room – Bert Johnson Offensive Line Room;

• Players’ lounge – Bill Templeton Players Lounge;

• Football locker room – Chuck and Tina Mitchell Locker Room;

• Linebackers’ position room – Demario Davis Linebackers Room;

• Fueling center – Dr. B.D. and Brenda Tiner Fueling Station;

• Hydrotherapy training room – Dr. Tim and Terri Langford Hydrotherapy Training Room;

• Head trainer’s office – Joe Williams Head Trainer’s Office;

• Football equipment room – John Church Equipment Room;

• Recruiting room – JTown’s Grill Recruiting Room;

• Offensive line coach’s office – Price and Sara Gardner Offensive Line Coach’s Office;

• Athletic training room – Ron Carroll Sports Medicine Center; and

• Head coach’s suite – Steve Bryant Family Head Coach’s Suite.

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