Campus Report to the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees; November 22, 2019

Campus Report

Christina S. Drale, UA Little Rock Chancellor
University of Arkansas Board of Trustees Meeting
University of Arkansas at Little Rock Campus
November 22, 2019

Chancellor Christina Drale gave a report outlining the challenges facing UA Little Rock and the institutional priorities for the coming year. She began by reviewing the institution’s role and scope emphasizing its role in providing graduate, professional and doctoral education in a metropolitan environment, as well as research and public service, particularly in support of regional businesses, community organizations, government agencies, and other educational entities. UA Little Rock recognizes its role and responsibility to help solve problems and generate growth in Arkansas. She also pointed out the important role that UA Little Rock serves for a diverse student body at the undergraduate level, many of whom are working adults who come to “up-skill”, finish a degree, or set a completely new course for themselves. UA Little Rock prioritizes access to professional experiences through internships, service learning, client-oriented project-based learning, and original research with a faculty mentor.

Chancellor Drale identified the current challenges of enrollment decline, budget shortfalls, and a failure of past policy and procedures to produce needed change or develop meaningful strategies. She identified the institutional priorities going forward in three critical areas: 1) Integrated planning, 2) enrollment management, and 3) budget integrity.

Starting last year, UA Little Rock has embarked on a campus-wide review of budget units for effectiveness, efficiency, and centrality to mission. The Institutional Effectiveness Committee (IEC) released its first set of recommendations last February and subsequent recommendations are currently being shared with the campus community as the institution considers various approaches to balancing the budget. A new budget planning policy and procedure has been developed to ensure adequate levels of input and review during the planning process. The institution has more work to do to get to a fully integrated planning process in place, but it is working toward that end.

Enrollment management remains a key factor in turning the tide for UA Little Rock. Chancellor Drale outlined the critical changes in leadership in that area, the changes in strategy, and the dramatic early results that they are seeing from those changes. Undergraduate admissions for fall 2020 are up 52% and new freshman admissions are up 156% compared to this time last year. Furthermore, the campus has developed a comprehensive enrollment management plan for the first time in its history, which covers both recruitment and retention at both undergraduate and graduate levels.

In the area of budget integrity, Dr. Drale identified the need to both increase revenue and reduce expenditures to balance the budget. Improved enrollment management is expected to eventually improve the revenue stream, but there is a critical need to downsize the budget as soon as possible. Chancellor Drale emphasized the importance of a strategic approach to making budget decisions so that the budget process takes into consideration institutional strengths and the core mission. Several strategies were outlined: 1) consolidate, reorganize and downsize to reduce administrative costs overall, 2) downsize the physical plant by consolidating space needs and taking a few buildings off line, and 3) continue the academic planning process with a goal of consolidating or eliminating programs with weak viability.

Chancellor Drale concluded her presentation with a reaffirmation of commitment to UA Little Rock students and a video introducing three “typical” UA Little Rock students who “represent the essence of who we are as a university”. In introducing the students to the Trustees after the video, Dr. Drale stated, “these students represent the power of educational transformation. We chose them not because they are extraordinary, although in many ways they are, but rather because they are typical students who exemplify what can be done with opportunity.”