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Henderson State University Approves ASU System Merger Agreement

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On Thursday, Nov. 22, the Henderson State University Board of Trustees approved a merger agreement and transition plan to join the Arkansas State University System. The merger must now be approved by the ASU Board of Trustees and the Higher Learning Commission, in addition to being approved by the Arkansas General Assembly.

According to ASU System President Chuck Welch, the agreement will be put before the ASU System board at its regular meeting on Friday, Dec. 6. If approved, the target date for completing Henderson State University’s transition into the ASU System is Jan. 1, 2021.

“We will make every effort for the transition of Henderson into the ASU System to be as smooth as possible for everyone,” Welch said. “The inclusive process for identifying the next chief executive of the institution will be similar to what we’ve successfully done at each of our campuses. I’m confident that affiliation with the ASU System will strengthen Henderson, our institutions and all of higher education in Arkansas.”

As part of the merger, an interim management process will be established in which the Henderson interim president will report through Welch to the board. A search committee will be established to find Henderson’s permanent president. Following the merger, the president will be named the university’s chancellor. Welch will chair the search committee.

Elain Martin Kneebone is currently serving as Henderson State’s acting president. The university’s former president, Glen Jones, resigned in July 2019 amid approximately $4 million in budget deficits.

In addition, the merger agreement requests that the ASU System board membership be expanded from five to seven trustees. The two new appointees, who will be selected by Gov. Asa Hutchinson, are to have “specific familiarity with Henderson State.”

The other terms of the merger agreement include the creation of a Henderson Board of Visitors, giving the ASU System the right to review Henderson’s operations and financial standing through third parties and providing the ASU System with “ongoing management compensation that is consistent with the current Henderson MOU and the formula used by other ASU System institutions,” according to an ASU System release.

The move to merge with the ASU System was announced with the Henderson board approved a resolution to join the system on Oct. 24. The two institutions had earlier signed a Memorandum of Understandingfor the ASU System to provide support services for Henderson.

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