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Course fee change, stimulus funds discussed at SouthArk Board meeting

by Marvin Richards | January 23, 2021 at 6:00 a.m.

South Arkansas Community College held a Board of Trustees meeting on Jan. 19 where several agenda items were discussed.

Two items were presented by the finance and budget committee of SouthArk: proposed course fee changes and the non-renewal or renegotiation of the school’s El Dorado Conference Center lease.

“Instead of having students buy a book, we’re shifting that cost to what we’re calling inclusive access. By shifting the cost away from students having to buy a book and including it into the course fee, we’re able to reduce the costs to students by 5%,” SouthArk President Dr. Bentley Wallace explained last week at a committee meeting.

The Board voted to adopt the new fee structure with a vote of 4-1. Students will be able to opt-out if they choose, Wallace said last week.

The next proposition the Board took up was on the renewal or renegotiation of the terms of the college’s lease agreement for the El Dorado Conference Center on the SouthArk campus with the City of El Dorado. The current 10-year contract is slated to expire in June.

“We want to position ourselves to renegotiate our lease with the city and to not allow this current agreement to renew automatically,” Wallace said, repeating what he told the budget and finance committee last week.

Wallace brought the proposition to a full board vote and the measure passed unanimously.

Stimulus funding

“We will be receiving another round of stimulus money,” Wallace announced Tuesday. “We will distribute more than $500,000 in cash payments to students over the next couple of terms. There will also be institutional support, more than what we got under the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act.”

“Under this latest round of funding, we will receive a little over $2 million in funding. Besides assisting students, we will also be able to offset salaries, other expenses and cover lost revenue as a result of reduced enrollment because of the pandemic. So that is is a significant change from the last round of money we received,” he added.

As part of his COVID-19 update, Wallace also shared that 85 SouthArk employees would be headed to the Medical Center of South Arkansas throughout the day Wednesday to be vaccinated against the virus.

“It pleases me to announce that SouthArk will be one of the first colleges in the state to do a COVID vaccination clinic,” Wallace said.

Wallace concluded Wednesday’s meeting by reminding the Board that Jan. 25 will be the first home basketball game in the new gym. Fans will not be allowed to stay in line with COVID guidelines, but the school is working on broadcasting those games through live feed on the school’s YouTube channel, Wallace said.

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