The UCA board of trustees met this afternoon to discuss a host of issues that have become controversial over the past weeks and months. All items on the agenda passed as written with the exception of one (details below). The board voted to reorganize the controversial discretionary scholarship program, to create a three member auditing committee to advise the board on financial matters, to move the university's line of credit to another bank and to raise tuition by two percent. University CFO Bunny Adcock gave a sunny financial outlook for the future, and the board set up a timeline for selecting a new president.
See all the details, including comments by UCA board chairman Rush Harding on the jump.
The discretionary scholarship program, which was used by former president Lu Hardin without any set criteria, will now be under the control of a seven-eight person committee with the goal of eliminating the influence of the president's office or board members. The board decided to eliminate the program on March 6, 2009.
The resolution that was accepted calls for the formation of a campus committee that will accept applications and award scholarships based on "exceptional financial need" or "extraordinary academic excellence." Scholarships will be limited to $3,000 per applicant, per semester and applicants will have to re-apply every semester. The total amount of money that will be set aside for this scholarship program has not been set by the board yet, but trustee Rush Harding says that amount will likely be somewhere between $50,000 and $100,000 per year.
This was the only item on the agenda that was amended. Originally, the proposal included a requirement that 50 percent of the funds go to students with exceptional financial need and the other 50 to those with extraordinary academic records. The board decided that the committee should decide how the funds are distributed.
In light of recent financial troubles, interim president Tom Courtway proposed that the school establish a three person auditing committee to advise the board on financial matters. According to Harding, this will be an invaluable tool for the board.
"We had issues this last year where we had a pool of money that we’d often used to help with projects that the board believed in and then, after the fact, we would find that was not an appropriate use of that money," Harding said. "By having this audit committee, the financial activities at the university will be completely transparent and that external auditor will report directly to the board and not to the university administration."
The three person committee would be made up of the immediate past chairman of the board, an appointee of the current chairman and a member to be elected by the full board.
The university currently has an existing $6 million line of credit with the National Bank of Arkansas. The bank informed the university that the line of credit would not be renewed. According to Harding, UCA received bids from every bank in Faulkner County except for Centennial Bank (UCA CFO Bunny Adcock sits on the board of Centennial) and First Security Bank in Conway came back with the lowest bid. Harding said the transfer would take place after all appropriate state approvals are in place.
Finally, the board decided to raise tuition by two percent. Harding says this is a smaller percentage than in years past.
On a somewhat unexpected note, UCA CFO Bunny Adcock told the board that the school's nearly $8.5 million deficit could be reduced to $1 million by the end of the fiscal year and possibly even down to zero. Harding said lowering that deficit was a result of some belt-tightening by Adcock and Courtway, and getting a $2.5 million advance on the school's state appropriation. "If we could get that number down to $1 million or zero by year end, that would be monumental for the university," Harding said.
Harding said teh board set a timeline for hiring the next president. The search committee submitted five names. The board will have a teleconference next Thursday to decide which candidates they will interview. Interviews will then be set up for May 29 and 30, or June 5 and 6. Harding says the board hopes to have a new president by the end of the fiscal year.
ARK BLOG: In response to a comment, and for what it's worth, Harding recused himself from the vote.