President Rodney Bennett announced in an email to the university on Thursday, Nov. 2 that The University of Southern Mississippi plans to permanently reduce its budget in the current fiscal year, which began on July 1.
Bennett said the funding that Southern Miss receives from the state has decreased over the past four years. Over the last 18 months, the amount that the university receives has seen the most significant changes. In addition to loss of state funding, the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning (IHL) Board of Trustees recently instituted a policy outlining financial expectations for all universities under the IHL. This policy “provides financial guidance and oversight so that the core functions of instruction, public service, and research can be accomplished in a financially sustainable manner for the long term benefit of Mississippi,” according to the IHL Board of Trustees’ Statement of Purpose for Institutional Financial Sustainability.
In response to this policy and the budget cuts, the university will reduce its budget by approximately $8 million and will eliminate twenty staff positions made effective on December 31 of this year. Bennett said those individuals had already been contacted. Visiting and temporary employees will not continue working at Southern Miss after their current scheduled end dates.
The planned reductions are meant to not only address current financial situations, but also plan for the future. A 2% reduction in state education funding is possible in the upcoming fiscal year.
“We continue to work hard to increase enrollment, and I am hopeful that state funding to public higher education will be restored,” Bennett said.
Three employees and 33 vacant positions were already eliminated at the beginning of the current fiscal year.
Bennett said the university has positive momentum that he is excited about but at the same time, there are budgetary shortfalls to address.
“From my perspective, public higher education is transitioning in ways that many of us have never seen before, and at every turn, there are uncertainties that make it difficult to predict the future,” Bennett said. “As such, I cannot say to the university community that we will not be asked to do more or to do things differently; I am sharing the information I know today. We must remain committed to The University of Southern Mississippi; work hard at the recruitment of new students and the retention, progression and graduation of current students; be mindful of all of our expenditures; think about ways that we can be entrepreneurial; and think about ways that we can generate private giving to the university.”