Director shares information on SB531

1 year ago

State Sen. Bill Sample of Hot Springs recently filed Senate Bill 531 (SB531) on behalf of ASMSA. Director Corey Alderdice shared more information on the bill and its benefits for the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts. The text of a letter from Director Alderdice is below.


March 3, 2017

Friends of ASMSA:

Sen. Bill Sample (R-Hot Springs) introduced Senate Bill 531 (SB531) on March 1 on behalf of ASMSA.  This legislation is intended to create pathways for some important campus conversations that have the potential for a significant impact on our school over the next few years.

You can review the legislation and its progress as we work with the General Assembly on this request via the following link:

Earlier this week, we marked 26 years since then-Governor Clinton signed the legislation establishing the Arkansas School for Mathematics and Sciences.
We are entering a period of time in which we celebrate our history and previous accomplishments as the school nears its twenty-fifth year.  Our mission to provide an accelerated residential experience, model best practices for other districts, and provide enrichment for students across the state remains as relevant today as it was at our founding. These occasions are also appropriate times to look forward at new possibilities for growth and opportunities to continue to lead the way for Arkansas schools and our fifteen specialized peers across the nation.

One provision of the bill would allow ASMSA to initiate a pilot program to enroll a limited number of nonresident students.  Thanks to our Global Learning Program and strategic partnerships with groups such as the UCA Confucius Institute and Hot Springs-Hanamaki Sister City Program, all ASMSA students have access to experiences that promote internationalization and a shared global community.   Over the past five years, more than 250 students and faculty members have had the chance to go abroad thanks to ASMSA.  Equally important are opportunities to bring the world to our campus through exchanges such as those with schools in Hanamaki and Osaka, Japan.

International students—who would be responsible for the full cost of their tuition, housing, and meals—would provide an ongoing global presence within our campus community. Per the legislation, the University of Arkansas System Board of Trustees would set these fees; moreover, they would exceed the direct per pupil expenditure the state makes on ASMSA students.  Revenue from the program would be used for the continued redevelopment of our campus, which is an important component of the revitalization of downtown Hot Springs.  For reference, our peer institutions in Missouri, Kansas, and Maine have been admitting international students for the past several years.  Other benchmark institutions have begun similar explorations.  It is important to note our number of Arkansas students will remain at 230, which has been our enrollment for the past decade.

Particular interest has been expressed from partners and organizations in China.  I believe these students have the potential to supplement explorations of ASMSA students studying Chinese language and culture.  An immersive experience that takes place within the framework of our residential community can serve as a springboard to future study in the language and accelerate the state’s pipeline of talented young people ready to embrace leadership roles in international business, industry, and policy.  Current Governor Asa Hutchinson has already participated in two trade missions to China, and investments such as those by Sun Paper in Arkadelphia demonstrate both clear benefits to the state and a real need for Arkansans with the skills to create bridges between our cultures.

The second provision of the bill relates to a more dynamic approach to admitting students based on ability rather than their current grade.  Similar schools in Illinois, Louisiana, and Maine admit students during their sophomore year.  The goal is not to shift our standard admissions point of entry to the sophomore year; instead, we would like to ensure truly exceptional students who possess the academic and social maturity for our “college bridge” environment do not sit idle during their sophomore year while simply waiting for their chance to attend ASMSA.  We believe these students would also enjoy further opportunities to participate in applied research and capstone experiences that can bring distinction both to them as individuals as well as our state. 

While the benefits of the legislation are articulated above, the decision to move forward with either component will happen only through approval of the General Assembly and a subsequent discussion and planning by our campus community.   My leadership team, the ASMSA Board of Visitors, and University of Arkansas System administrators agree that these conversations will be more fruitful if they are framed by the actual ability to undertake the projects rather than seeking legislative approval after consensus is reached.

We are excited about the 25th anniversary of the arrival of the Charter Class in 2018 as well as the opening of the Creativity and Innovation Complex in early 2019.  Both our academic program and physical campus will continue to evolve each year.  It must do so as we strive to innovate and articulate the value of our work while acting as good stewards of the state’s financial support. What will never change, though, is our commitment to providing a vigorous and meaningful experience for talented and motivated Arkansas students from across the state. 

Corey Alderdice
ASMSA Director

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