Mid-South Community College Eyes Arkansas State University Merger

Mid-South Community College of West Memphis and the Arkansas State University System could be headed toward a merger.

Mid-South's board of trustees unanimously voted Nov. 10 to enter formal conversations with the ASU System about a merger. 

"We have carefully considered the opportunities for continued growth and long-term success of Mid-South Community College and believe as a board that a merger could help us do more for our city, county and region," Mary Meux Toney, chair of the board, said in a news release.

Glen Fenter, Mid-South president, said there was a "very narrow window that we must capitalize on while the opportunities are available to us."

"A merger with the ASU System could potentially give us the edge that we've never had on our own," he said in the release. "If it is approached in the right way, I think it has the potential to become a very powerful catalyst for our region to maximize some great opportunities."

Chuck Welch, president of the ASU System, offered the following statement on the possiblity of a merger with Mid-South.

"We have tremendous respect for Mid-South Community College and its leadership. Dr. Fenter and his team have made Mid-South a vital workforce training and education connection between students and employers with very progressive ideas," Welch said in the statement. "Mid-South’s efforts are consistent with our system’s goals to enhance educational opportunities and contribute to economic development in the Delta region and throughout the state. We look forward to discussing its possible addition to the Arkansas State University System.”

Fenter said another positive of a merger is that Arkansas State allows each individual campus a great deal of autonomy and still has a local board with many of the same responsibilities it has now.

Fenter also said a merger would not mean more money for Mid-South in the short-term.

"It means we could have more people rowing our boat," Fenter said. "Arkansas State needs a presence in economic development and workforce training, and they know we are viewed as a leader in the state in those efforts. We need their support to help us speed up changing the state's funding formula for workforce training-related efforts."

If Mid-South becomes part of the ASU system, one name being mentioned is Arkansas State University Mid-South.

In a blog post on the Mid-South website, Fenter admitted that he has previously said he saw no reason for Mid-South become a part of a university system.

"I believed that with all my heart, and my statements to that effect were based on the circumstances of those times and places," he said. "But this is a different time."

Fenter mentioned having an experienced staff in the state capital would be an immediate benefit that Mid-South currently doesn't enjoy.

"Resources currently unavailable or costly for us include staff lawyers who deal with legal issues facing higher education," Fenter said. "They will be especially beneficial to us in the management of intellectual property including patents, copyrights and trademarks."

Mid-South has an enrollment of 1,917 students, including 1,252 undergraduate and 665 high school students. 

In addition to its flagship institution at Jonesboro, Arkansas State has a presence in Beebe, Mountain Home, Newport, Searcy, Marked Tree, Heber Springs, Paragould and the Little Rock Air Force Base.