New Library Will Become Reality for UACCM

With the passage of  Referred Question 1, or ACT 1, “Arkansas Higher Education Technology and Facility Improvement Act of 2005,” during the November 7 election, the University of Arkansas Community College at Morrilton is one step closer to building a new library complex.   
The “Arkansas Higher Education Technology and Facility Improvement Act of 2005” passed impressively with a favorable vote of 69 percent in Conway County, a figure that was reflected statewide. This Act will allow the Arkansas Development Finance Authority to issue up to $250 million in college savings bonds for much-needed improvement of technology and expansion of facilities in higher education. Overall, the bond sale will give $150 million to the state’s public institutions of higher education. The remaining $100 million will be used to refinance the existing bond issue from the 1989 College Savings Bond Act at an improved interest rate. Rather than increasing the annual bond payment, the state’s current annual $24 million payment in debt services will be extended for about 14 more years.
Proceeds from the higher education bond sale will result in the University of Arkansas Community College at Morrilton receiving approximately $3.15 million for the construction of a new library. The new library complex is expected to be approximately 26,000 square feet, including 13,000 to 15,000 sq. ft. of library space, eight to ten general-use classrooms, and 12 to 15 faculty offices. 
The current college library, last remodeled in 1994, is approximately 5,760 sq. ft. This includes a media center, restrooms, and two lobby areas that connect the library resource area to the media center. 
Since the last remodeling project, the college’s enrollment has grown by 229 percent. In recent student and graduate surveys administered by UACCM, students have indicated that the college library requires a larger variety of resources to meet their research needs.
Although no timeline has been established for the sale of the bonds, the planning process is already underway at UACCM. The college has been taking bids from architectural firms and will soon begin an interview process. The college will present a short list of three firms to the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees, who will then make the final selection. After the architectural planning process is completed, the college will begin taking construction bids. It is anticipated that actual construction will then take at least a year to complete.
Enrollment at Arkansas’ colleges and universities is up 63.5 percent to more than 101,000 students since 1990 when the College Savings Bond Program was originally passed by the voters. The college-going rate at state colleges are all at record levels; however, in terms of constant dollars, 2004-05 funding was the lowest level per full-time-equivalent student since 1979-80.
According to UACCM Director of Institutional Advancement Mary Clark, the passage of this ballot is a win-win situation because: no new taxes are required; each public college will receive a portion of the money (based on its enrollment, space needs, use of debt service capacity and use of facilities); this project will allow institutions to serve additional students, strengthen academic programs, improve information technology, maintain accreditation, and increase research and grant activities; and higher education savings bonds are a cost-effective way for Arkansans to save for the college educations of their children or grandchildren. These bonds are purchased at a discounted price depending on the bond’s maturity date and serve as a low-risk, long-term investment opportunity.
Clark states, “Everyone at UACCM is thrilled that ACT 1 was passed by a majority of voters, both locally and statewide. The colleges are so grateful for the support of the communities we serve and proud that the citizens of Arkansas understood the tremendous positive impact this will have on the status of higher education in our state.” 
This issue had been officially endorsed by many organizations throughout the state, including the Arkansas Department of Higher Education, the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce, Arkansas Farm Bureau, University of Arkansas System Board of Trustees, the UACCM Board of Visitors, the UACCM Foundation Board of Directors, and the UACCM Student Government Association.

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