Mississippi’s legislature cut $1.58 million from The University of Southern Mississippi’s budget, and university officials are working to deflect the effects of the expenditure cuts now.
Gov. Phil Bryant announced another round of budget cuts on Sep. 8 to fix an accounting error of $57 million.
Across all departments – excluding K-12 education, the military and student financial education – Bryant ordered a 1.6 percent budget cut to account for the error, according to The Clarion Ledger. The IHL board announced to the universities that schools will lose 1.63 percent.
USM has received more than $90 million this year through state appropriations and another $9 million in one- time funding that has specific usage requirements, including the Educational Enhancement Funds.
“We are in the preliminary stages of planning for the reduction, but our priority, always, is to minimize impact to students,” said Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Steven Moser. “The reductions are spread across all divisions, and each vice president will work with their leadership team to determine the best way to manage the appropriation shortfall.”
Moser said the option of raising student fees is not currently being discussed, but the university is considering other options.
“What I usually do is ask all of my direct reports to take a look at their budgets,” Moser said. “It may mean that we take open lines that haven’t been filled this year, and we just move those dollars into the reduction so it could be that it would have no impact this year on anything that touches students.”
Moser said the university will address the changing state appropriations by increasing enrollment at the university.
“What our focus is these days is in growing enrollment,” Moser said. “Through growing enrollment we grow revenue, and we have capacity at the university to do that. And as we try to address the changes in state appropriations, the path forward is through enrollment growth and the revenue that [it] will bring to us.”
USM’s Vice President of Finance and Administration Douglas Vinzant said the options and way forward are not always clear, especially with this type of situation.
“It’s not a case where when you receive that sort of notice, you turn around two weeks later [and] here’s the way you’re going to implement the cut,” Vinzant said. “We’re actually going through a process of planning, and this will just be part of that effort.”
Vinzant said the university will continue to inform its constituents.
“We have been, and we will continue to keep all of the campus constituencies apprised of any new developments,” Vinzant said. “All of those groups – deans, vice presidents, faculty senate, etc. – all of those people we’re keeping apprised of what we know, when we know it.”