Col­leges gain state board’s OK to merge

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - RECORDS - JEAN­NIE ROBERTS

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.

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