LITTLE ROCK - Although the 2013 legislative session is still five months away, public institutions are already preparing their budget requests for the next two years.
For example, the Higher Education Coordinating Board met last week to finalize budget recommendations for the coming biennium for the 33 state-supported colleges and universities in Arkansas.
The institutions would like to receive about $874 million a year in state aid. This year two-year colleges, four-year universities and technical centers will get about $816 million from all sources of state aid. More than 27,000 people are employed by Arkansas higher education institutions.
Higher education officials realize that there will be intense competition for available tax revenue when the legislature convenes in January. Legislators will be under severe pressure to provide funding for Medicaid and public schools from kindergarten through grade 12, prompting higher education officials to acknowledge that the recommendations made by the Higher Education Coordinating Board are unlikely to be fully funded.
In addition to the increase in operating budgets, the Board recommended about $213 million in renovation and construction projects.
The Board also heard the most recent report on the college-going rate of Arkansas students who graduate from high school. Last school year, 52.2 percent of the public high school graduates enrolled in a two-year college or a four-year university. That shows solid growth since 2005, when 45.6 percent of Arkansas high school graduates went on to college. However, it lags behind the national college-going rate of about 70 percent.
Another significant result of the survey shows that females are much more likely to attend a college or university than a male. More than 57 percent of the girls who graduated from high school last spring were enrolled in college last fall. That compares to less than 47 percent of the boys.
About 29,000 high school seniors graduated, and of those 9,333 enrolled in a four-year university last fall. Another 4,827 enrolled in a two-year college and 944 enrolled in a private or independent college in Arkansas.
Crime Victims Reparations
The state attorney general's office announced that in June more than $322,000 was awarded to victims of crime in 138 cases. The awards were decided by the Arkansas Crime Victims Reparations Board.
The awards compensate the victims for medical treatment, mental health counseling, lost wages and funeral costs. Most awards are capped at $10,000 but a crime victim suffering catastrophic injuries that result in total and permanent disability can receive $25,000.
Last year $3.2 million was awarded to victims of crime. The attorney general administers the program, which the legislature created 25 years ago. For information you can call 1-800-448-3014 or access the attorney general's web site at www.ArkansasAG.gov.
The money comes from court costs and fees assessed against the convicted criminals, as well as from court-ordered restitution. Victims of crime can apply for reparations, as can dependents of homicide victims. Dependents and survivors of homicide victims can apply for up to $3,000 to cover the costs of cleaning up the crime scene. Reparations will not be awarded to cover attorneys' fees, property loss or pain and suffering.