Last December Arkansas colleges asked for money to build more classrooms and buy equipment because all of them were getting more students than they could handle. The money would come from bonds that the state would sell, which, of course, meant neither you nor I had to pay any new taxes.
But unfortunately, the colleges joined with the state Highway Commission that wanted Arkansans to give it the power to sell as much as $575 million in bonds for more highway construction when the commissioners wanted to. Both proposals were submitted to the voters, and both were turned down.
The highway bonds were totally destroyed, but the colleges would have won if only 596 more of the 114,000 voters had said yes instead of no. Only 7 percent of the state’s registered voters even went to the polls, but most of them resented the commission trying to get too much power so they said no to both ideas of selling bonds.
Now the colleges are trying again to have enough money to take care of the thousands of Arkansans who want to go to college. Look at what is happening. In the last 10 years, 45 percent more Arkansans have enrolled in the state’s colleges. That’s much more than three of our neighbor states in the last 10 years. Mississippi’s colleges have had only 36 percent more students, 25 percent more in Oklahoma and only 20 percent more students enrolled in college in Tennessee, which has almost 3.5 million more people than Arkansas.
Here is the money for construction used by the colleges in the last 10 years: Mississippi, $650 million; Oklahoma, $718 million, and Tennessee, $1 billion. Arkansas state colleges have been able to spend only $142 million for buildings.
Here are the amounts that four of our colleges would receive if this proposal passes: University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, $16 million; University of Central Arkansas in Conway, $13 million; University of Arkansas in Little Rock, $9 million, and $6 million to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock.
If you are like me, you might be thinking that if these institutions get more money they will use it for hiring more provosts and vice chancellors or building stadiums and paying coaches twice or three times as much as professors are getting. I have talked directly to two of our college presidents, and they have convinced me that the money can be used only for building classrooms and buying equipment such as computers in classrooms. Also, for the four-year colleges, there’s such a thing called eCorridor, a very expensive Internet service that will provide all kinds of research for professors and students.
Arkansans have made a lot of mistakes in college education — too many four-year colleges and way too many two-year colleges some of which are only 20 minutes apart by car. But we should vote for this new college bond issue Nov. 7. An organization called Education and Training Pay tells us why: In 2005, 7.6 percent of people who didn’t finish high school were unemployed. Those with bachelor degrees were working and making $50,394 a year.
Well, all of a sudden Little Rock gets a new nickname — The Rock.
Reading the newspaper and talking to City Hall you discover people like The Rock taking the place of City of Roses and other names that the city has had over the years since 1722 when Benard de la La Harpe noted the spot where the city began.
The search for the city’s new moniker was conducted by David Bazzel, once a star for the Razorback football team who does a popular talk show on Radio KABZ, best known as The Buzz. While 423 entries came in, the story in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette indicated that probably The Rock was chosen because there is still a big piece of the rock here that La Harpe saw while he floated by. The rock has a plate on it, but you have to be careful to see it because it’s in sort of a steep place under the Junction Bridge not far from the river.
Frankly, I don’t like the new nickname. Maybe the Democrat-Gazette didn’t either because the reporter reminded us that the name The Rock is also the name of Alcatraz.
City Hall is somewhat excited because the New York Times and the Atlantic Monthly have called in to get the town’s new name. However, I believe those writers were just learning more about Little Rock to write next year when the 50th anniversary of the desegregation of Central High School in Little Rock took place and the Army had to be called to put the nine black children into the school. .
I was out there as a reporter, and when I think about it, maybe the new name for Little Rock fits because there were many rocks thrown there those days.