A higher ed mishmash: In-state tuition, recruiting Texans and Gearhartgate | Arkansas Blog

A higher ed mishmash: In-state tuition, recruiting Texans and Gearhartgate

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ALL ABOARD IN TEXAS: Razorback-wrapped Dallas buses are part of the University of Arkansas marketing outreach to Texas. Might officials worry about fallout there from unflattering headlines? - PONYFANS.COM
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  • ALL ABOARD IN TEXAS: Razorback-wrapped Dallas buses are part of the University of Arkansas marketing outreach to Texas. Might officials worry about fallout there from unflattering headlines?
Arkansas State University's board of trustees yesterday expanded in-state tuition rates to include all ROTC cadets. ASU in 2011 authorized the favorable tuition rate for all serving in the military, but didn't specifically address students in ROTC, a program whose continuation at ASU was recently won after congressional intervention.

The news about cut-rate tuition caught my eye because of an earlier note I'd received from a reader with a theory about why the University of Arkansas deployed ts muscle to short-circuit further discussion of the Advancement Division financial scandal in Legislative Audit last week.

This reader thinks Chancellor David Gearhart wanted to staunch the bleeding he's endured not so much because of fallout in Arkansas but to end any deleterious effects in the "Metroplex" — Dallas/Fort Worth. My cynical reader thinks "Dallas Dave" sees potential harm to the UA's aggressive Texas recruiting, which has been central to the campus' growth spurt. All of Texas enjoys cut-rate in-state tuition at UA. My cynical reader comments:

They have to keep the affluent Metroplex student coming to the U of A to prop up the sagging student housing market, the restaurants and keep discounted tuition payments to pay the burgeoning debt service from the increased on-campus building. Gearhart was smart he has all the leading Arkansas contractors, among others, providing cover by awarding "no-bid" contracts (if AHTD can bid construction contracts why can't the U of A?)….

Well. That  is a bit too evolved conspiratorially for my taste, but it's undeniable that bad PR is bad PR.  Continuing headlines about a university that touts its business schools but can't balance its own books are not desirable. They don't teach good PR practices at Fayetteville either, apparently. The UA's decision to put the kibosh on further testimony by ousted advancement boss Brad Choate was boneheaded PR. He didn't have much to say that hasn't already been said or intimated, but the UA managed to create one more outward appearance of having terrible things to hide by mustering legislative forces for his silencing. Those who think free tickets and parking are designed to influence legislators now have more fuel for such dark thoughts.

I don't, by the way, dismiss the reader's notion that UA cares a lot about Texas. Enrollment figures show a huge increase in Texas enrollment accounts for a full third of the growth of all UA enrollment from 2002 to 2012. There are nearly 4,000 Texans on campus now thanks to the enormous price  break in fees and the difficulty Texas students face in winning admission to Texas flagships. The exposure from playing football in Cowboy Stadium is not just about recruiting football players.

Which takes me back in a roundabout way to ASU. I inquired about its in-state tuition waivers after receiving the ROTC news release. I learned it extends price breaks to students from essentially border counties in Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas. The break in Texas, for example, goes only to students from Bowie and Cass counties.

With its Division I football aspirations, maybe ASU ought to go after Dallas, too.

And to finish this muddled mishmash:

For those pondering the Legislative Audit vote Friday to stifle Brad Choate, note that the vote divided in large measure along the lines of votes on the Obamacare Medicaid expansion vote, which will be voted again early next year. Those who sided with shutting up Brad Choate tended to be private option supporters. Those unhappy about his silencing tended to be private option opponents. What do you bet the UA will lend its help to Gov. Mike Beebe in rounding up those 75 percent roll calls next year? Note: Beebe's man on the UA Board, John Goodson, was the only person allowed to speak at Friday's committee meeting.


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