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Higher education notebook

by Emily Walkenhorst | August 23, 2020 at 4:32 a.m.

UALR fundraising

reaches a record

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock set a record for fundraising last fiscal year, even without considering its $25 million donation from an anonymous benefactor.

The university raised $48 million last year. The $23 million raised without the record-setting donation is still the most the university has raised in a single year, spokeswoman Angela Faller said. In fiscal 2019, the university raised $20 million. It raised $17.7 million and $17.5 million in the two years before that, respectively.

The $25 million gift this spring was intended for need-based scholarships and student affairs.

The university received another $10 million anonymous gift for scholarships and $2.1 million from the George W. Donaghey Foundation for the ongoing Donaghey Scholars program and other campus initiatives, according to data supplied to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

The university also received several six-figure gifts, including a $700,000 anonymous gift for a professorship in the College of Humanities, Arts, Social Sciences and Education.

Most gifts were made for scholarships. Faller said part of the rise in fundraising was because of donations for emergency scholarships for students affected by the pandemic and an increased national fundraising campaign that reached alumni in other states.

More than half of university faculty members donated some amount, and more than 6,800 individuals donated.

"The gifts are part of a comprehensive fundraising campaign designed to increase the number of endowed need-based scholarships, grow the student support endowment, raise support for high-quality faculty through endowed chairs, raise endowed maintenance funds for existing buildings, and help renovate existing facilities," an announcement about the fundraising year reads.

Student loan relief

extends to Dec. 31

Relief from repayment of federally held student loans -- and interest on those loans -- will extend to the end of this year, according to a directive from the U.S. Department of Education.

The directive was prompted by a memorandum from President Donald Trump on Aug. 8, according to a department announcement.

Borrowers had already been granted a temporary reprieve from making payments until October, a way the federal government tried to help lessen financial burdens on people during the novel coronavirus pandemic and the resulting record unemployment. The directive extends the reprieve another three months.

Borrowers can still pay on their loans. Interest won't accrue on the debt that remains during the relief period.

For those who have defaulted on their loans, collections will temporarily stop. Any wages garnished related to the federally held loans will be returned to the borrowers.

Tech to offer staff

retirement option

Arkansas Tech University will offer a voluntary retirement incentive to longtime employees ages 60 or older.

University trustees approved the measure during a meeting Thursday. Employees have until 4:30 p.m. Oct. 23 to decide whether to participate.

Universities in Arkansas have occasionally offered similar incentives as eventual cost-cutting measures.

Employees who are at least 60 years old, have worked at Arkansas Tech for 10 years and whose salaries aren't covered entirely by grants are eligible, according to a university announcement. That makes 96 employees eligible, a spokesman said.

They can retire effective Dec. 31 or May 31.

Incentives will be calculated based on the base salary the university pays to the employee minus any grant funding. The payout will be no more than 50% of the university's contribution to the salary.

Arkansas Tech will continue to pay a portion of the employee's health insurance premium after retirement until the employee reaches the age of Medicare eligibility.

Tech has interim

finances official

Arkansas Tech University has a new vice president of finance and administration, on an interim basis, it announced this week.

Walter J. Branson will replace Bernadette Hinkle, who resigned effective July 1. He starts Monday. His annual compensation will be $196,863.

Branson's most recent job was vice president of finance and operations and chief business officer at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. He served in that role from 2017-19, according to his resume.

Before that he spent four years as vice chancellor for finance and administration at the Missouri University of Science and Technology. Previous to that, he spent 20 years as vice chancellor for financial affairs at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne.

He has a bachelor's degree in forest management and a master's in industrial administration from Purdue University.

Arkansas Tech will search for a permanent vice president for finance and administration in the spring.

Until then, President Robin Bowen said in a news release that she was glad to have Branson.

"The coming year will present multiple challenges and opportunities as we work together to mitigate and recover from the effects of COVID-19," she said. "Mr. Branson will be an important member of our executive council as we navigate the 2020-21 fiscal year and position ATU for continued success in fulfilling its mission of student access and student success."

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