Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed Act 18 on Tuesday, officially adding Henderson State University in Arkadelphia to the Arkansas State University System as the system's seventh institution.
Act 18 also expands the system's board of trustees from five members to seven. The additional members will be appointed by the governor.
The trustees of both the system and Henderson approved the deal in late 2019, as did the Higher Learning Commission late last year. The first vote by Henderson trustees came in October 2019, three months after former Henderson President Glen Jones' sudden resignation amid financial turmoil at the school and a "no-confidence" vote from faculty.
Henderson will remain a separately accredited institution and is the second four-year institution in the system. The school also competes in NCAA Division II sports and is the third ASU System school with an intercollegiate athletics program.
"While we have previously welcomed Henderson as a member of the ASU System family and worked closely with the institution for a year and a half, we're thrilled for this partnership to be finalized," ASU System President Chuck Welch said in a news release. "It's been a long process, and we appreciate the rapid action of the General Assembly and Gov. Hutchinson to bring it to a close. We're grateful to have interim Chancellor Jim Borsig in place to lead Henderson through this transition and couldn't be happier about this partner in the ASU System's ongoing expansion.
"The growth of the ASU System has already delivered significant efficiencies, financial savings and services to our member institutions, and the addition of Henderson will further enhance these initiatives. Our recent additions of information technology and strategic research expertise at the system level bring even more benefit as our institutions work together on challenges and opportunities in higher education."
Hutchinson added in a separate statement, "With the hard work of educators over the past year and a half and the counsel and support of the 93rd General Assembly, we have realized the aspiration of Arkansans who saw a way to strengthen both Henderson State and the ASU System. This merger adds Henderson's 130-year legacy to the history and traditions of the other members of the system that further strengthens the ASU System."
Henderson is the third school to join the system in five years. Mid-South Community College in West Memphis became Arkansas State University Mid-South in July 2015, and College of the Ouachitas in Malvern became Arkansas State University Three Rivers in January 2020.
With this addition, the ASU System now serves 37,465 students annually on campuses in Arkansas and Queretaro, Mexico, and globally via online courses. It has a total operating budget of $348 million.