The Pulaski Technical College Board of Trustees voted unanimously Wednesday to enter into a partnership agreement with the University of Arkansas System. The UA System Board of Trustees must also vote on whether to approve the merger.
The decision comes after UA System Donald Bobbitt presented merger plans to the Pulaski Tech Board at its March 28 meeting.
After Wednesday’s vote, Pulaski Tech Board Chairman Donald Redman said the identity of the school should be left in place with a merger.
“We won’t lose focus on what our mission here is at Pulaski Technical College. We have been, we will remain a technical college, and we will offer the things and do the things that technical colleges do,” he said.
Leaders at the North Little Rock-based school see the potential merger as a way of allowing students to choose from a wider array of academic programs that can be transferrable to four-year degree programs offered by universities in the UA System. Pulaski Tech primarily offers two-year degrees to students. The school’s leaders also say the merger could help reduce their costs for information technology and student data systems, as they could enter into larger purchasing agreements established by the UA.
Pulaski Tech has faced decreasing enrollment in recent years. In 2011, enrollment was 11,946. It fell to 7,648 last fall. In 2014, after Pulaski County voters rejected a millage increase to fund the college, Pulaski Tech raised tuition and fees by about 13 percent.
If the merger is approved, Pulaski Tech President Margaret Ellibee says the college will also likely negotiate with the UA system by bringing a wish list for improved faculty and staff retirement and benefits.
“[We’ll be] looking at that and then saying, alright, is there an appropriate timeline to this that allows for education and training of our employees if that’s needed. Is there a timeframe that is appropriate to work through all the legislative committees we have to...for contracting,” she said.
Ellibee said she also hopes potential negotiations can proceed quickly so that the college can enter into the UA System’s purchasing agreement for an online student course management system called Blackboard.
“If we could do that...this summer so that is implemented by fall semester for our students, that would be tremendous,” she said.
The UA System Board is to discuss the proposal on May 25 and 26 duirng a meeting at Cossatot Community College in DeQueen
KUAR is licensed to the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, part of the UA System.