Colleges gain state board’s OK to merge
Crowley’s Ridge Technical Institute and East Arkansas Community College are now one institution.
With six out of 11 board members present, the Arkansas Higher Education Coordinating Board voted unanimously in a special telephone meeting Monday to merge the Forrest City schools that have operated independently side by side for decades.
The discussion was minimal and the decision was quick.
Board member Greg Revels asked for an explanation of the board’s role in the merger.
Higher Education Department Deputy Director Tara Smith reviewed Act 636 of 2017, which outlines details of the merger. The Higher Education Coordinating Board was the last step in the approval process, Smith said.
The merger is effective today.
All property, statutory authority, duties, functions, personnel and funding of Crowley’s Ridge Technical Institute are now transferred to East Arkansas Community College.
The Crowley’s Ridge board of directors was abolished in the merger, and the existing board of East Arkansas Community College assumed the institute’s powers and duties.
Higher Education Coordinating Board member Olin Cook said he had a few people ask him not to approve the merger, but in the end he voted in favor.
In an interview after the meeting, Smith said the students and employees will see few changes, at least for the first year.
The reorganization will take time, and the combined campus must be accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, a regional accreditation agency. It’s too soon, Smith said, to determine the cost per credit hour of the merged institution.
According to Act 636, the number of Crowley’s Ridge employees will drop from 54 to 39, with the top three administrative positions being cut. Many of the eliminated positions are currently unfilled, Smith said.
“I think the expectation is that it will be minimal change and from what I understand, it will be minimal job loss,” Smith said.
Crowley’s Ridge had resisted attempts since 1991 to bring the two colleges together. But in a special meeting last week, the institute’s board voted 3-2 to support the merger. That decision came a day after Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced the appointments of Kathy Frein and John Jordan to the board — both of whom voted in favor of combining the two schools.