Universities Get Message to Trim Budgets

By: Rachel Alig Email
By: Rachel Alig Email

State budget cuts are hitting Mississippi's universities hard. They've all been told to look for ways to tighten their belts.

Following a request from Mississippi State University president, Dr. Mark Keenum, a committee that included faculty, staff and students, has issued a report with some ideas for cost cutting. They could affect MSU's Meridian campus.

Mississippi's budget problems have presented issues for educational institutions at all levels. That includes MSU Meridian. A tuition increase has already been approved.

"Which was about a 6 percent increase this year, and a 6.3 percent increase next year," said Dr. Jack Tucci, dean of MSU Meridian.

But campus officials are not relying solely on tuition hikes to help with budget woes. Tucci says the university plans to cut back on adjunct professors.

"We're really striving to cut back on the use of adjuncts and instructors. Those things are a certain cost," said Tucci. "We spend probably $300,000 a year on just adjunct salaries. And so what we've tried to do is minimize our exposure to hiring contract professors to try to save money there."

Part of the budget saving process for MSU Meridian is cutting some classes. Not only are some courses being cut, but various programs are being combined into one as well.

"What they are doing in Starkville is, they are merging, and this report came out today; they may combine two economic programs," said Tucci. "They have an economic program, agriculture economics in division of forestry and agriculture. They may have an economic program in the college of business. They may merge those two economic programs."

These program mergers are an attempt to reduce administrative costs. Along with this, faculty of MSU-Meridian have a certain amount of money for traveling to conferences to present professional papers. That budget has been cut in half. While all of these measures, and more, are starting to take place for budget purposes, the campus is on a tight plan.

"Our loss has been severe," said Tucci. "It's severely limited any flexibility we have."

Officials with MSU Meridian say they don't expect any cuts in specific departments at the university to affect them.

A proposal released earlier this week by the university recommends making cuts in several departments, including cutting PhD degrees in elementary and secondary education, and merging the accounting and finance department.

Education is one of the Meridian campus' most popular programs, but it does not offer a PhD program. Accounting is also popular, but is not expected to be affected at the Meridian campus.


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