Article Comment 

Dramatic changes on the horizon for MUW


Jason Browne



One way or another, sweeping changes are on the way for Mississippi University for Women. 


Gov. Haley Barbour is expected to recommend MUW be consolidated with Mississippi State University as a cost-saving measure when he releases his proposed 2011 budget, Monday. Merging the two universities would result in eliminating one set of administrators. 


But according to MUW President Dr. Claudia Limbert, jobs are going to be cut whether or not the schools merge. And Rep. Esther Harrison, D-Columbus, an MUW alum, doesn''t think a merger would solve the school''s problems. 


"I don''t think that would cure, by itself, the funding problem with the deficit that we have. For us, I don''t see an advantage," said Harrison. 


MUW stands to lose $5 million in funding over the next three years, said Limbert. This year, the school had a $1.3 million cut, but no jobs were lost. 


Next year, MUW will lose another $1.3 million, equaling 24 positions. An anticipated $2.5 million drop in 2011 will lead to the loss of 45 positions. 


"Seventy percent of our budget is in people. We''ve cut everything we can cut," said Limbert. 


If MUW can maintain or increase its enrollment over the next few years and the Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning approves a requested 5 percent tuition hike, Limbert says some of those jobs may be saved. 


"The budget situation is not looking good for anyone in the state. The state is losing about $40 million during the same period we''re losing $5 million," said Limbert. "Everybody is going to get this cut. There will be talks about merging school districts, cutting community colleges and all state agencies. Who knows what''s going to happen at this point?" 




Economy woes 


Sen. Terry Brown, R-Columbus, agrees with Limbert''s assessment of Mississippi''s financial troubles. 


"I don''t think people on the street even know how bad our funding situation is right now," said Brown. "We started out $450 million in the hole last year because of Medicaid. 


''If Obama''s health care bill passes, that''s another $350 million we don''t have. We could easily be $1 billion in the hole the day we (legislators) get there in January." 


Limbert, legislators and local officials agree closing MUW would be a bad move, and Harrison and Rep. Gary Chism, R-Columbus, agree a merger, of MUW with Mississippi State, Ole Miss, East Mississippi Community College or any other school, is unlikely. 


"Right now, we''re not looking at merging any of the universities," said Harrison. 


"(A merger) is required to pass both the House and the Senate. I don''t think it will pass either one," said Chism. 


The state Legislature would have to introduce legislation to merge any of the state''s colleges. They also would have to introduce legislation to change MUW''s name. Limbert in August announced Reneau University as the college''s choice for a new name. 


Despite MUW''s potential to grow its student population as an arm of MSU -- MUW enrolls about 2.400 students -- Lowndes County Board of Supervisors President Harry Sanders hopes the university remains an independent entity. 


"As a last resort, if that''s what you have to do to keep it open, that''s what you have to do," Sanders 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. 


Columbus Mayor Robert Smith also would like to see MUW succeed independently but sees the economic value in combining the two schools. 


"If it did happen, I think that would be a great asset from an economic standpoint for the city," he said. 


Smith believes a merger would lead to increased enrollment, which would bring more tax revenue into Columbus. 


Expenditures for students -- $38.5 million annually -- generate $138,780 in local sales tax. 


More than 19,000 people participated in public events hosted at MUW in 2004, spending about $846,969, regionally and generating $15,810 in local sales tax. 




Budget slashes 


Major cuts are in store for all state schools, said Scott Ross, president of the College Board. 


"All of our universities are going to be very different when we come through this budget crisis. I don''t think anyone should expect to not see change and feel pain," he said. 


The IHL board will meet Nov. 18-19 in Jackson, after Barbour releases his budget. A merger likely will be discussed if it appears in Barbour''s budget, said Ross. The board also will discuss plans begin the search for Limbert''s successor when she retires in July 2010. 


Both Ross and Harrison have heard rumors about Barbour''s intentions, but neither have been told by Barbour of anyone on his staff of his recommendation. Chism and Brown also had not received any official word on the merger recommendation. 


"I don''t know what (Barbour''s budget) is going to contain," said Ross. I expect it will contain some pretty bold recommendations given the state of the economy."




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Reader Comments

Article Comment ST commented at 11/12/2009 11:39:00 AM:

The articles never mention that MUW is the most recognized University in the state when it comes to actually educating people.

U.S.News & World Report's 2010 guide, "America's Best Colleges," ranked MUW 7th among Southern institutions for its strong commitment to teaching and No. 34 in the Best Universities--Master's Southern region category. MUW was the only Mississippi institution classified for its strong commitment to teaching and was the highest ranked school from Mississippi in the Best Universities--Master's Southern region division.

MUW's quality of education has consistently been reflected in other national rankings, including being named No. 8 of the top 50 best values for public colleges and universities by Consumers Digest magazine and 54 of the 100 best values in public colleges across America by Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine.

Graduates in MUW's Bachelor of Science in Nursing program have a 99.27 percent pass rate on the National Licensure Exam since inception of the program.


Article Comment Ellen commented at 11/12/2009 12:04:00 PM:

You are right ST. MUW is a tradition and has made a name for itself WITHOUT a stupid football team. Claudia Limbert has murdered this school and the longer she is allowed to remain president, the sooner the funeral. Wake up people and let's preserve THE W!!


Article Comment ted commented at 11/12/2009 12:14:00 PM:

Well I guess that is why elected officials are making the decisions and private citizens are not. The only thing that will save that campus is a merger with another university. The enrollment is only 2400 and I doubt that it will increase at all.

All traditions must come to an end and MUW is no exception.


Article Comment Colfaxcounty commented at 11/12/2009 12:38:00 PM:

Create a campus that houses the College of Education, Human Sciences of MSU. House the Workfoce Training Functions of 2 year colleges, with a Health Occupations School for UM as well. Then attach each individual unit to a corresponding higher education institution like UM does with it's Tupelo Campus. That way you spread the wealth around. Everyone is happy! If Vanderbilt can do this with Peadbody in Nashville, surely we can.


Article Comment Change. commented at 11/12/2009 5:09:00 PM:

Say thanks to all the Alum who have stirred the pot over the last few yrs. Look now what you have to look forward too. Miss State University at Columbus!
Keep it Alum who at at arms.


Article Comment W. L. Scott commented at 11/12/2009 6:00:00 PM:

That should be "like UM does with its Tupelo Campus."

Sorry to be pedantic, but my elementary school teachers were VERY thorough.


Article Comment Fred commented at 11/12/2009 11:39:00 PM:

Limbert is telling you "traditionalist" the cold hard truth and has been for years. You have ignored, maligned, and fought her and consequently the school is now in a very weak position to weather the recession. Face it folks, MUW is looking into the abyss. It is time to put the bullsh-t aside and make the necessary changes required to save the institution. Change the name, increase the tuition, recruit more students. and weather the storm. This is your last chance to use some common sense.


Article Comment flyingjenny commented at 11/13/2009 9:46:00 AM:

Peabody College of Education and Human Development was founded in 1875 when the University of Nashville, located in Nashville, Tennessee, split into two separate educational institutions. The preparatory school, University School of Nashville, separated from the college, which was originally called Peabody Normal School, but soon became known as the George Peabody College for Teachers.[5] Peabody was merged into Vanderbilt University in 1979. In the 2009 edition of the U.S. News & World Report rankings, Peabody was ranked as the top graduate school of education in the nation.


Article Comment elvis commented at 11/13/2009 10:14:00 PM:

The merge is a LONG OVERDUE CHANGE. Let's make some sense of how we spend our money allocated for education! As a dis-gruntled MUW grad, I opt for combining with the best of ... and facilitating excellence in instruction with what is left at MUW. Get real girls...we need to start making a difference instead of maintaining "status quo"


Article Comment Sarah commented at 11/17/2009 11:01:00 AM:

MUW is not just a normal school. As ST points out, MUW has a variety of high-quality, award-winning programs. Overall, MUW is ranked very high *and* has one of the lowest public university tuition rates in the state. More, not fewer, students--including those from out of state--need more, not less, access to an affordable quality education.


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