October 31, 2009 10:01:00 PM
With alumni divided over a name change and talk the school might be more useful as a satellite campus of another university, Mississippi University for Women faces many challenges, but local legislators agree it''s an institution with a potentially bright future.
"I hope it''s wonderful," said Sen. Terry Brown, R-Columbus. "I hope we''ve got a rich future, and I think we can have (one). We''ve got to get this name-change situation settled right now, and I think we''re in progress of getting a resolution to it.
"We''ve got to get our student population up, but we''ve also got to be very careful about it, because we''re in dire straights, as far as budget," he continued. "We''ve got to make some hard decisions, and we need to be in the fray and we need to help make those decisions."
MUW officials proposed changing the name to Reneau University; the State Board of Trustees for the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning will be asked to approve the name, before the Legislature votes on a new name.
MUW President Dr. Claudia Limbert offered three reasons for the changing the name -- growth, competition and relevance -- when she publicly announced plans to recommend a name change for the school, in August 2008.
The school''s perception as a women-only college reduces the number of men and women who will consider enrolling there, she''d said, noting the school''s name puts it at a "competitive disadvantage."
Rep. Jeff Smith, D-Columbus, earlier said he''s willing to introduce legislation to change the college''s name, but would prefer a geographical name. He agrees the name needs to be changed for the school''s survival.
For MUW to remain an independent institution and "not merge it with any other university, a name change is essential," Smith said.
The college employs more than 400 people, making it one of the county''s 10 largest employers. In the fiscal year 2004 -- the most recent economic impact report released by the school -- MUW reported $16.75 million in salaries and wages, generating about 752 jobs and $26.3 million in total labor income. More than $1.6 million in revenue associated with wages and salaries went into the state''s general fund. Expenditures for students -- $38.5 million annually -- generate about 636 jobs, $8.37 million in labor income, $138,780 in local sales tax and $850,883 in general-fund revenue.
More than 19,000 people participated in public events hosted at MUW in 2004, spending about $846,969, regionally, creating 32 jobs and generating $436,221 in local labor income and $15,810 in local sales tax and $75,060 in state general-fund revenue.
Rep. Gary Chism, R-Columbus, previously said he doesn''t want the university''s name to change and is opposed to the name, Reneau University.
"I think we''re going to have to look real hard at consolidating some programs," Brown said, noting officials have discussed the merits of consolidating administrative functions, like human resources and accounting services, of all Mississippi''s institutions of higher learning, within the IHL. "They''re talking about consolidating (offices). I think that''s where we''ll head to start with; that''s what I hear is being looked at, not only from the Legislature, but also the IHL."
"If that doesn''t bring it in, there could be some consolidating (of schools) down the road. Not immediately, but down the road."
Enrollment woes, but ''bright future''
"We''ve got to set a goal (of attracting students), and we''ve got to reach that goal somehow, someway," Brown added. "Whatever it takes to get these students in, that''s what we''ve got to do."
MUW enrolls about 2,400 students; Limbert has said the school needs to add about 1,500 to 2,000 more students to stay afloat and maintain its current programs.
"I have been getting several correspondences through e-mail from various fractions," said Sen. Gary Jackson, R-French Camp. "As far as I know, there is no movement to close The W or radically change it.
"My connection with my constituents with The W is very much in the nursing program at MUW, which seems to be serving an extremely useful purpose," he added. "I understand there is a need for trimming waste in government or looking at all programs that may be considered duplicative, but I''m not so sure that''s the place to start."
"I think MUW has got a bright future," said Rep. Jimmy Puckett, D-Amory. "It has so many excellent programs that just make it outstanding and people are attracted to those programs.
"I''ve had probably 200 contacts for leaving the name the same and one that wanted to change it," he continued. "Certainly most of those were alumni, but from many, many different counties. I haven''t completely made my mind up, but I''m leaning toward leaving it just as it is."
Rep. Reecy Dickson, D-Macon, declined to comment on the long-term future of MUW.
Morgan commented at 11/1/2009 10:25:00 AM:
More -useful- as a satellite campus? Oh please. Other universities just want the programs we have. We're good enough to stand alone. Thanks for really believing in us legislation.
ccruby commented at 11/1/2009 11:41:00 AM:
The issue of finding/enrolling more students keeps coming up, but no mention of research efforts along these lines. Are there any MS universities that are military friendly? I am not aware of any effort being made to attract military students. I saw something about legistlation being introduced to waive residency requirements with certain conditions. I don't know if that ever became law. MUW is a very good candidate to become a military friendly university which basically means that they have a system for translating military trainning into comparable college credit. Being located next to Columbus AFB may attact active duty personnel and military students who have been released from active duty. The new approved GI Bill will make it possible for many more military members and/or their family members to attend college. I recall reading that Limbert designated two college professors to contact Columbus AFB to let them know what MUW offers. Why doesn't MUW contact the base education office to determine what MUW can offer to meet the educational needs of military personnel? I don't remember seeing the Education Services Officer's name or title on any visioning committee, etc. lists. Why isn't he/she included in every attempt to include community members in decision making? Why isn't Hank Bounds meeting with every Education Services Officer on military installations in the state of MS to determine how MS universites can meet the educational needs of military personnel--active duty and recently discharged personnel? Has anyone compiled statistics about the potential number of students connected with military installations in MS? Is it a significant number? What can be done to attract military students from other states? Waive residency requirements? Provide military friendly degree programs--at least at one or more universities? This is not difficult to do. Even if it does not produce significant numbers initally it is worth the effort and has the potential to attract more military students as time goes on.
Thom Geiger commented at 11/1/2009 1:37:00 PM:
ccruby, I think your idea has a tremendous amount of merit, but there is, sadly enough, some powerful anti-military sentiment in this area, almost to the point of being totally anti-military. There are posters to both the Dispatch web site and CTalks.net that have openly advocated the closing of Columbus Air Force Base, and publicly expressed open hostility for anything, everything and everyone related to the base and the Armed Forces.
As expressed by one regular poster to the newspaper web site, the Columbus city school central office is one such center of anti-military sentiment (owed, I'm guessing, to the heated and hard fought legal battle over the 1970s court ordered placement of base students into city schools).
Regardless of what the CMSD district staff and some of its more vocal proponents say, it would be very unfortunate for the community if the next round of BRAC closures included the air base, but some will never admit that, nor accept that such would be a tremendous loss to the community, both economically and socially.
I am nonetheless interested in your idea and I hope some or all of what you have said sinks in. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and you can contact me on the CTalks.net site about the value and importance of the military aspect of state educational opportunities. I would like to hear more about it and maybe exchange some ideas.
a. Gray commented at 11/2/2009 10:39:00 AM:
A military college? A golorified junor college--Vo-Tech is what it would become.
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