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ATU Board Receives Update and Plans for the Future, According to The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Arkansas Tech University in Russellville has seen a significant improvement in freshmen retention rates, according to interim President Russ Jones. The fall-to-spring retention rate for freshmen starting in fall of 2022 was 83%, marking a return to pre-pandemic levels. The fall-to-fall retention rate also increased to 68%, the highest since 2017.

Jones noted that the national average for fall-to-fall freshmen retention is roughly 70%, with no Southern state having an average exceeding this. To address retention, the university has allocated $50,000 for retention committees within the colleges.

In addition, the Arkansas Tech Trustees have approved financing for capital projects amounting to $15,525,762, with a focus on dire and high-priority projects. The funds will come from Education and General funds, repurposed from savings on a scaled-back student union and recreation center project.

Included in the capital projects is the construction of a new student union and recreation center, to be named the Ferguson Student Union, after a generous $3.5 million donation from alumni Jimmy and Cindi Ferguson. The total cost of the building is around $46 million, with an expected opening in the summer of 2025.

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Some of the key projects in the works include HVAC infrastructure for the campus power plant, building renovations, and equipment and vehicle replacements. The university also plans on issuing $10 million in bonds for new construction, renovation, or acquisition of buildings and equipment. The funds will be used to prevent significant impacts on the university’s cash and fund balance.

Additionally, the Trustees approved an internal loan of $900,000 to Athletics for vans and a scoreboard at Thone Stadium.

The Trustees also approved the discontinuation of the Bachelor of Arts in World Languages/Spanish degree, due to low enrollment. However, students currently enrolled in the program will be able to complete their degree or change majors.

As for the board leadership, Len Cotton was elected chairman, with Bill Clary as vice chairman and Michael Lamoureux as secretary for 2024.

The meeting also saw an update on the ATU Career Center, which awards concurrent college credit hours and industry credentials to students from 15 area schools. The career center offers a variety of programs, including the newest addition – air conditioning and refrigeration, which has already attracted more than 40 students.

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