Donates pay raise to USM scholarship
University of Southern Mississippi President Rodney Bennett announced to the university community on July 6 that he would be donating his recent raise to the USM Foundation, an in- house scholarship outlet for students.
Bennett was awarded the $72,630 raise in order to keep his salary competitive with Mississippi’s eight other university presidents. The raise, which would have bumped Bennett’s base salary to over $460,000 a year, came at a time when the USM community was just beginning to experience the effect of receiving $7.96 million less in funding since the 2017 fiscal year. The “Hattiesburg American” reported over the summer months that three employees lost their jobs while another 33 vacant positions were eliminated before being filled. USM continues to prepare for limited funds as students adjust to academic reorganization as well as a $449 increase in tuition for the 2017-2018 school year.
“The presidents’ salaries are made up of a combination of private and state funds. Glenn Boyce, commissioner of higher education, said it was necessary to give Bennett…[the] raise despite state funding cuts to universities,” the “Hattiesburg American” said.
“While I am grateful that USM will keep pace with other research universities in this regard, I am sensitive to the fact that this increase comes at a time when so many employees have not received pay increases, has had positions eliminated or have positions in their unites remain unfilled,” Bennett said. “The scholarship will assist students in attending and completing their education at USM, something for which I feel a strong conviction.”
Former USM student Jesse Johnson described Bennett as a “class act” while many parents and alumni took to Facebook to proclaim their pride and peace of mind of knowing their children attend a university that “truly cares for their student’s success.”
While Mississippi continues to experience budget cuts across all levels of education, this donation offers some relief to the students of USM.
Students can apply for foundation scholarships by visiting https://www.usm.edu/success/usm-foundation-scholarships