LITTLE ROCK – The Arkansas Department of Higher Education Coordinating Board (AHECB) met on Friday, April 19, for the regularly scheduled meeting at the office of the Arkansas Department of Higher Education.
During the Executive portion of the meeting, the board heard the report from Director Markham, a closing legislative summary by Senior Associate Director Ann Clemmer, a Scholarship update by Jonathan Coleman, Financial Aid Director, and annual reports on Credentials Earned, Student Retention and Graduation, and Retention and Graduation of Intercollegiate Athletes by Sonia Hazelwood, Associate Director of Data and Analytics.
Hazelwood presented to the board the statewide trends for graduation and retention rates by institution type. The last five years show a steady growth of academic credentials. Bachelor degree rates increased statewide, while two-year and private institutions showed a slight decline. The statewide retention rate is based on fall-to-fall comparisons of first time entering, full-time, and credential-seeking (or cohort) students. This rate represents the percentage of each cohort who return in the next fall term. Statewide the retention rate has increased for the last five years with the latest measure being Fall 2017- Fall 2018. During this latest measure, 73.9% of cohort students returned for the second year.
Also part of the executive presentation, Director Markham introduced Dr. Todd Kitchens, Vice President of Student Services for Northwest Arkansas Community College. Kitchens presented on the institution’s award-winning, L.I.F.E. program. The program, which is in its 8th year of implementation, serves as an educational empowerment program for area high school students based on a near-peer model. The peer group is selected to volunteer as mentors to students to have previously identified as having little to no interest in attending college. Although L.I.F.E. is welcoming of all, 100% of the program mentors and 91% of the students that participate identify as Hispanic or Latino and many are first generation college students. Volunteers spend approximately 280 hours each year at different events reaching other students and parents to assist with college planning and preparation.
“The data from the program speaks for itself,” said Kitchens. “The fall to spring retention rate for L.I.F.E. students is 90% and the fall to fall retention rate hovers around just over 80%. This is all due to us being willing to build a sense of community.”
The finance committee approved, followed by the board approval, for distribution of mineral lease funds and an Economic Feasibility of a bond issue for the University of Central Arkansas. The bonds will not exceed $20 million with a maximum term of thirty years at an estimated annual interest rate not to exceed 5%. Proceeds from the bond issue will be used to support construction of the Windgate Fine and Performing Arts Center.
The academic committee and board approved new programs for three higher education institutions and two role and scope changes presented by Dr. Jessie Walker, Senior Associate Director for Academic Affairs. For Phillips Community College of the University of Arkansas, the board approved a Certificate of Proficiency and Technical Certificate in Construction Technology and an Associate of Applied Science, also in Construction Technology. For Southern Arkansas University, the board approved the creation of a Bachelor of Science in Cyber Criminology. For University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, the board approved a Master of Education in Educational Equity. For Henderson State University, the board approved a Role and Scope change for a Doctoral program of Instructional Leadership. For Southern Arkansas University the board approved a Role and Scope change for Doctoral program in Education in Rural and Diverse Educational Leadership.
The next board meeting will be held at the campus of the University of Central Arkansas July 25-26, 2019.