Article Comment 

Area universities brace for cuts


Jason Browne



State universities know the cuts are coming, and now it''s time to separate the necessary from the expendable. 


The Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning board has projected a 5 percent cut, which could inflate to 10 percent, in funds across state schools in 2010, followed by another 10 percent cut in 2011 and an additional 20 percent cut in 2012. 


Mississippi University for Women and Mississippi State University both appear poised to take the 5 percent cut in stride, but neither school knows what the larger cuts will mean. As such, both institutions are assembling teams to assess potential cuts in programs or faculty. 


"Next year we''ll be down $1.5 million. Then the next year we''ll be $3 million down," said Nora Miller, vice president of finance and administration at MUW. "This year we''re OK. Next year will be tight. The year after that we''ve got to make some adjustments for the long term." 


Initially, those changes likely mean a cut in spending without any loss of jobs or services. Miller says budgets for maintenance, computer hardware and software and outsourced work can be rolled back to weather the initial cut. 


MUW Provost Dr. Hal Jenkins says the next step is cutting employee costs without layoffs. 


"We''ll probably end up with a number of positions we will not fill. Vacant positions won''t be hired, retirees won''t be replaced," said Jenkins. 


Mississippi State University Provost Dr. Peter Rabideau says MSU won''t be adversely affected by the first round of cuts. 


"MSU was in a good financial situation. We are getting through the first layer of cuts without, hopefully, too much damage to academic programs," he said. 


Like Jenkins, Rabideau says the school doesn''t know exactly what the biggers cuts will cost the school, but the university is being proactive. 


"The president will establish a committee for efficiencies and innovations. It will involve a number of faculty being elected by the faculty senate," said Rabideau. 


It will be the job of the committee to trim 5 percent off the budget in each division. The only division that will be exempt, according to Rabideau, will be the library. 


MSU President Dr. Mark Keenum met with his vice presidents Wednesday to discuss the coming cuts. No action has been taken thus far, but, like MUW, Keenum said vacant positions will remain vacant for the forseeable future. 


Neither Rabideau nor Jenkins would say whether faculty or academic programs will suffer because there are too many variables in play to make such a determination. But both agree those are possibilities. 


"First of all, we''ll see how we handle the 10 percent cuts. We will look at programs, the number of students enrolled (in each program), growth in each program and enrollment trends," said Jenkins. 


"This is clearly going to have an impact on everything we do, including academic programs," said Rabideau.




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Reader Comments

Article Comment J commented at 9/24/2009 1:02:00 PM:

Wow this sounds like a great time to spend many thousands of dollars on a name change for MUW since they seem to be just rolling in the dough. I'm sure allocating the money for that won't necessitate any staffing or program loss earlier than what they are already predicting.


Article Comment M commented at 9/24/2009 5:04:00 PM:

The IHL needs to make hard decisions. Close down MUW and make it MSU-Columbus. Next, close Valley, and then make DSU MSU-Delta or UM-Delta. This would eliminate much of the higher administration at these universities, allow for specialization of programs at the campuses (nursing at MSU-Columbus, etc.).


Article Comment Greg commented at 9/24/2009 5:26:00 PM:

I have to agree, the name change is not going to help with enrollment, just wait and see what happens when EMCC-GT get their nursing program going. The drop in nursing students at MUW is going to put alot more pressure on tuition cost.It is the largest enrollment program MUW has right now.By combining the ones mentioned above will reduce administrative cost and still provide a good education.


Article Comment pennix commented at 9/25/2009 7:56:00 PM:



Article Comment Publius commented at 9/28/2009 3:49:00 PM:

It is time for the IHL to start considering a tuition increase, as painful to students as that may be. The increase needs to be smaller than what some other states have passed so as not to inhibit lower income students ability to attend university. Program cuts will only negatively impact the state of Mississippi and its future economic growth.

MS is currently at or near the bottom in every major educational category as well as every economic category. Education of our citizens IS the way out of that position. Education is an investment in the future of the state, not a wasteful expenditure of tax dollars.

At the same time, universities need to trim whatever excess exists, eliminate redundant programs and positions, and focus on their core business...producing high quality citizens to lead MS into the future. Universities should also explore alternate avenues of financing their operations by tapping alumni contributions and other benefactors who believe in the mission of higher education. The roller coaster ride dependent on state support must stop if educational quality is to be maintained.

This is NOT a Democrat or Republican issue. It is a Mississippi issue. All Mississippians should take pride in their institutions of higher education and strive to make those institutions the center of their economic future. We ALL benefit from a well-educated population and a high quality educational environment.


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