February 18, 2010 11:27:00 AM
The state College Board has directed Mississippi State University and Mississippi University for Women to explore consolidating operations, a move that MUW''s president says "is not a merger," and would end with The W remaining a stand-alone institution.
The state College Board and university presidents are meeting in Jackson today.
The two schools will name coordinators to "develop functional teams from the two universities to review the operations. We will carefully and deliberately examine all possibilities before taking any action," MUW President Claudia Limbert said.
In a separate statement, MSU President Mark Keenum said that the arrangement "simply involves one university helping another during extraordinary times."
"IHL Commissioner Hank Bounds and IHL Board members asked us to reach out to a sister institution, and we have agreed to do that," Keenum said. "It is my hope that sharing back-office resources will achieve efficiencies and allow MUW to continue to play a vital role in the higher education system in our state."
After several months of work, a Mississippi State committee released a series of its own cost-cutting proposals Wednesday, which included combining the College of Forest Resources and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and merging or realigning other academic departments with similar missions.
"Mississippi State University faces its own budget issues, and we have been working for months to meet those challenges," Keenum said. "I cannot state more forcefully that our focus will not shift from those priorities. But if we can work with MUW on functions to achieve savings that will help MUW through a difficult period, we are willing to do so."
While the two presidents, in their statements, didn''t mention the consolidation of academic programs, MSU also announced separately that the two schools were creating a joint degree in culinology, combining food science courses at State and the culinary arts program at MUW.
Also, the two schools signed an agreement that would allow pre-nursing students at MSU who were admitted into MUW''s nursing program to earn bachelor of science degrees from both MUW and State simultaneously.
"All students who opt to enter the new interdisciplinary pre-nursing track at Mississippi State and satisfy the requirements of the MUW bachelor of science in nursing program will hold degrees from both institutions," Keenum said in a separate release.
Limbert''s full statement:
"The State of Mississippi is in the midst of an unprecedented economic crisis. This crisis affects every state agency including all eight IHL institutions, and in particular, the smaller universities such as MUW that cannot absorb the budget cuts that the larger institutions can. The financial challenge facing Mississippi promises to become worse before it gets better.
"The lack of a name change, coupled with the current economic realities facing us, requires that the IHL and MUW move in a different direction.
"As a result, the IHL has directed MUW to partner with MSU to explore opportunities for MUW to increase its efficiency by consolidating some of our operations. This is possible because MSU has economies of scale based on their size that MUW, as a smaller institution, lacks.
"The questions to guide us will be: Will consolidation of certain operations save money? Will consolidation provide the same or better level of service to our students and to our community?
"It needs to be stressed that this is not a merger. In addition, our academic integrity will remain intact and MUW will retain budgetary authority for any operations consolidated with MSU. The outcome will be eight institutions and for MUW to be a viable, separate, stand-alone institution and poised for growth."
Check cdispatch.com and tomorrow''s printed Dispatch for more information on this developing story.