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EACC Board Approves Pathway to UA System Membership

The EACC Board of Trustees unanimously approved a proposed affiliation between the institution and the University of Arkansas System at a specially called meeting Wednesday, paving the way for EACC to become a member of the state's largest higher education system.

The board unanimously approved a resolution, presented by Board Chair Brent Howton and EACC President Dr. Cathie Cline, that directs them to implement the merger agreement and plan of transition for the institution to become a member of the UA System.

The Board of Trustees of the University of Arkansas will also need to vote on the proposed agreement at a future meeting. Once approved by both boards, the two entities may continue working toward meeting other state and federal requirements in the next year for EACC to officially join the ranks as the UA System's eighth two-year college.

"This agreement opens up so many new possibilities for EACC - possibility is a powerful thing," Cline said. "Staff, faculty and students have already begun thinking more strategically about our future and exploring the opportunities that membership within a larger system will bring."

Howton, the EACC board chair, agreed that the move solidifies EACC's future and better enables it to fulfill its individual mission with a structured system of support.

"We need to be open to evolution and change," Howton said. "Membership within the UA System is a partnership that allows us to maintain our local mission and serve our constituents, while also providing support and resources to the College now and in the coming decades as higher education continues to change and adapt."

"The responses we've received from students, faculty and staff, and the community about this move have been overwhelmingly positive," Cline said. "Students are excited about the new avenues for transfer and expanded workforce programming opened up by joining the premier higher education system in the state, and I'm excited about the additional benefits this will provide to our employees and the overall level of support that will be available to us as a UA System member institution."

The process to join the system could still take up to one year, with the agreement listing a proposed closing date of March 2025. In becoming a member of the UA System, EACC does not expect its leadership, faculty, staff, educational programs, or cultural enrichment to change.

The College will continue to manage its own budget and personnel under the leadership of Cline and a local Board of Visitors, who will continue to advise on matters related to budgets and programming.

EACC will also maintain its local identity and focus on the community. Transfer opportunities with all colleges and universities in Arkansas and nationally will continue. No student will lose opportunities for successful transfer as a result of EACC joining the UA System.

However, it is anticipated that through shared goals with UA System institutions, more opportunities for easier transfer will result. In addition, EACC students will have the opportunity to take advantage of the nationally recognized transfer scholarship program with the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, that allows students who transfer with an associate's degree to pay the same tuition they were paying at their UA-affiliated community college.

"Since 2018, EACC's motto has been 'Stronger Together,'" Cline said. "In my 7th year of leadership at EACC, I am even more firm in my belief that in education, we truly are stronger together, especially being under the umbrella of the entire UA System, which touches every county in the state with world-class opportunities and existing partnerships."

"With this agreement, our board members have shown strategic foresight in planning for EACC's long-term future," Cline said.

"I am thankful to the UA System for the good relationship that we already have, and continuing down this road toward officially being a member is an opportunity for EACC to grow once again. With the support of the UA System, we are confident we will continue to lead the region in high-quality education and training."

The UA System has 20 campuses, divisions and units with more than 70,000 students and 30,000 employees, while managing a total budget of over $4 billion. In addition to the state's 1871 flagship, land-grant research university in Fayetteville, the UA System also includes seven two-year institutions across the state, five four-year universities, a 100 percent-online institution, the state's only academic health sciences university, two schools of law, a presidential school and one of the nation's top residential math and science high schools. The UA System also has divisions of agriculture, archeology and criminal justice, along with the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Institute.  

During the process of joining the UA System, EACC and System administrators will provide direction to the overall planning and implementation, but the process will involve students, faculty, and staff.  Becoming a member of the UA System is a multi-step process, which must ultimately receive final approval from the Higher Learning Commission.

East Arkansas Community College

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